Summit Avenue



How can you weave a life from fairy tales?

Set in Minnesota during the years 1911-1919, Mary Sharratt’s acclaimed debut novel is the story of a young German immigrant who translates fairy tales for an enigmatic older woman. The heroine is drawn into a mysterious new world as the tales assume a reality of their own, mirroring her awakening in a time of alienation and war.

Finally available as an e-book, SUMMIT AVENUE is one of Coffee House Press’s all time best-sellers. A book discussion group favorite, SUMMIT AVENUE was a Booksense 76 Pick and was nominated for the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award.



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Book Excerpt | Reader’s Guide


Praise for Summit Avenue


“In this remarkable debut, Minnesota native Sharratt weaves dark, evocative fairy tales and passionate longings into an incandescent coming of age story…. Sharratt fills Kathrin’s story with sensuality, insight and poetic observation: ‘Flat-bottomed, curly-topped prairie clouds were sailing like steamships across the deep blue sky.’ These and other haunting images, as well as her inspired use of folklore and myth, add depth to this potent tale.”Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“I highly recommend this wonderful new novel. I read it in a weekend, absorbed in the story and characters, and was moved to tears by the ending. It is a tale of many things–immigrant life, working in Midwest flour mills, family ties, fairy tales as feminine archetypes–but more than anything, it is the story of two women and how they found their way to each other against all odds.”Booksense 76 List: Barb Wieser, Amazon Bookstore Cooperative, Minneapolis, Minnesota

A “complex and subtle Cinderella tale. Mary Sharratt’s debut has almost none of the typical faults of first novels. Her language is lush but controlled, her narrative perfectly paced. Nothing is rushed or condensed.”—Regina Marler,

“Sensuous and deeply moving, this stunning first novel explores traditional roles for women and their mythic counterparts, as well as the theme of initiation into womanhood as it is expressed in the myth of Persephone and the stories of Baba Yaga.”—Bonnie Johnston, Booklist

“Kathrin’s story would be merely a sad romance with a twist if it weren’t interwoven with fairy tales that illuminate it. Tales of maidens and hags, terror and magic take on fresh clarity and power in this unusual context. . . . This is a poignant novel, and appealing in its well-researched early-20th-century settings–stately Summit Avenue, gritty mills, bawdy Nordeast bars.”
—Pamela Miller, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Lyrical and lovely. Summit Avenue touches the heart and remains in the mind like a haunting melody. Combining fairy tales with gritty reality, this first novel is a story about growing up, about values, above all about love in all its guises. . . . Reality and folklore blend seamlessly in this story, making it difficult to distinguish one from the other. . . . Mary Sharratt enchants and amazes as she spins her tale, turning straw into gold.”—Lynn Eckman, The Roanoke Times

“In Summit Avenue, Sharratt gives fairy tales back to adult women.”—Mary Ann Grossman, St. Paul Pioneer Press

“Fans of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run with the Wolves, the popular Jungian analysis of female images in folk tales, will appreciate Sharratt’s weaving of the Baba Yaga and Vasalisa initiation story throughout the book.”—Terri Foley, Minnesota Monthly

“I am amazed that this is Sharratt’s first novel, as in its sophistication, its deft use of complex narrative styles, its assured voice, it seems like the work of a vastly experienced writer. . . . I hope Sharratt has a second book in the works, and that we do not have to wait long to fall under her spell again.”—Maureen T. Reddy, Hurricane Alice

“The characters are compelling–both resisting and embracing their assigned fairy-tale roles. They immediately draw us into the story of poor, naive Kathrin alone on the bring of war in an unfamiliar Summit Avenue world, guided only by an old thread of story left by her mother and uncle and the fairy-tales Violet has told her. Sharratt’s addition of fairy-tales to historical fiction helps reveal that the world is full of wonders, and this empowers Kathrin to thread and reweave her stories to transform her life.”—Suzanne Kosanke, Marvels & Tales: A Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies

“Mary Sharratt’s Summit Avenue is a beautifully crafted debut novel set in the Twin Cities during the years 1911-1918. A wonderful coming-of-age story intertwined with the power of fairytales as they influence our sense of self.”—Mary Ellen Kavanaugh,

“Mary Sharratt tells her tale well, mixing history with good old-fashioned story telling. Her use of fairy tales to underline Kathrin’s life experience gives the story a real richness. She has created a legend out of Kathrin Albrecht’s imagined life.”—Judith Katz, Lambda Book Report

“This is a sensitive, beautifully written book about love, loss and the search for identity told against the background of myth and legend.”—Margaret Davis, Spotlight Magazine, Germany