Friends and fellow writers joined Swampscott's Deahn Berrini at a book launch Thursday at Gaga Gallery, sending her new novel How To Earn Your Keep into the larger world.
The 60 or more gallery guests included Deahn's writers' group, students in her writing class, local poets and others with a stake in words and art.
The evening celebrated the author and her book with wine, fine food and conversation, much of it on the novel.
Back when Deahn was writing How To Earn Your Keep, writers' group member Lana Owens read each of its chapters many times.
She said the book is a world within a world on the North Shore of Boston, revolving around a brother and sister in their twenties who are dealing with tough economic times and facing moral challenges.
Even though Lana knew the story inside out — from their group readings — she took every opportunity to read the book upon publication.
She tucked it in her purse and, in any free moment, returned to its lyricism, characters and their spare dialogue.
Clem Schoenebeck, a member of Swampscott's Tin Box Poets group, has yet to read Deahn's latest novel but he read her first one, Milkweed.
It pulled him into the world of a Vietnam veteran beset with post traumatic syndrome.
"It sort of gripped me," he said.
He will soon read How To Earn Your Keep, after buying a copy Thursday.
Deahn's pen was moving steadily at a table in the center of the room at Gaga on Humphrey Street, signing copies of her book and accepting congratulations.
In front of her and to the left hung the original painting that is the cover art for her book, a painting by Anne Johnstone.
The painting's colorful mask represents for Deahn the difference between what we project to the world and who we are on the inside.
Several of Deahn's students stood and sat near the original painting.
One of them, Nancy Diaz, said she appeciates how accessible her teacher's writing is — the world of her words has a sense of place that invites the reader to enter.
Laura Smith, also a member of Deahn's writing group, said How To Earn Your Keep is beautifully written and compassionate.
"It honors decency over greed," she said.
Deahn said the biggest challenge to writing the novel was being fair to the characters and not favoring one over the other.
How To Earn Your Keep, published by Four Square Press in Swampscott, is available at Spirit of '76 in Swampscott and Marblehead, $14, and online from Barnes & Noble or Amazon. An ebook, $4.99, will be out in a week.
Bio: Deahn Berrini aims to give voice to those not backed by education, connections or luck. Her first novel, Milkweed, which looks at post-traumatic stress disorder in returning vets from the family’s point of view, was extensively researched. Praised by Richard Currey, author of the classic Fatal Light, Milkweed received 5 stars from The Midwest Review, and was a recommended read by the Vietnam Veterans of America’s The VWA Veteran. She teaches writing and writes for her local Patch. A graduate of Brown University with a degree in history and an alum of Boston College Law School, she lives north of Boston with her family and is at always at work on her next novel.