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Alcestis (Paperback)

Alcestis By Katharine Beutner Cover Image
On Our Shelves Now
1 on hand, as of Apr 23 9:15pm
(Myth, Folk, Fairy)


For fans of The Song of Achilles, a queer and fiercely feminist retelling of a little-known Greek myth: the ultimate story of sacrifice and forbidden desire—now in a deluxe reissue.

In Greek myth, Alcestis is known as the ideal wife; she loved her husband so much that she died and went to the Underworld in his place. But who was Alcestis before she was married? Other than her love for Admetus, what circumstances led her to make this ultimate sacrifice? And what happened to her in the three days she spent in the Underworld?

Katharine Beutner’s lush, emotionally devastating debut explores the magical reality of Ancient Greece, where gods attend weddings and the afterlife is just a river away, as Alcestis goes on a heroine’s journey from sheltered princess to self-actualized savior—redefining love and discovering her own power. Giving an achingly beautiful voice to the most misunderstood wives of Greek mythology, Alcestis is the Underworld as you’ve never seen it before.

This deluxe edition features discussion questions, a craft essay, and a bonus short story.

About the Author

Katharine Beutner is an associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; previously, she taught in Ohio and Hawai`i. Her second novel, Killingly, is now available from Soho Crime. Her writing has also appeared in Tinfish, Los Angeles Review of Books, Public Books, The Toast, TriQuarterly, Humanities, and other publications. Recently, she received an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award. She is the editor in chief of The Dodge, a magazine of eco-writing and translation.

Praise For…

Praise for Alcestis

Winner of the Publishing Triangle’s Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction
Finalist for the BSFS Compton Crook Award
Finalist for a Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Debut Fiction

“[A]n engaging, subversive reimagining of the tale of the eponymous Greek heroine who is upheld as a shining example of the dutiful wife for her selfless sacrifice.  Katharine Buetner’s Alcestis is a far more willful heroine, and her encounters with the gods of the underworld resonate with a genuine sense of the numinous.”
—Jacqueline Carey, Namaah’s Kiss and Kushiel’s Dart
“In the tradition of great retellings like Mary Renault’s The King Must Die or Ursula K. LeGuin’s Lavinia, Beutner helps us re-see the familiar . . . Beutner brings scholarly rigor and feminista analysis to her portrayal of life as a royal Greek woman in the Bronze Age . . . Impossible to put down . . . Alcestis is nobody’s celebratory gayed-up Greek myth (for that, try Ovid). Instead, Beutner’s retelling is resolutely queer: strange, beautiful, ambivalent, sexually fluid, full of human complexity and godly simplicity.”
—Andrea Lawlor, Lambda Literary

“Everyday life in the ancient world, a no-escape-clause afterlife in the underworld, vulnerable mortals, and passionate and tormented gods—all are imagined with intense actuality in a novel that is as intoxicating and hypnotic as the sacred smoke inhaled by the oracles.”
—Elizabeth Knox, author of The Absolute Book

“The piquant novel is as alluring as Persephone’s pomegranates; its protagonist as exceptional as Beutner’s vision.”

“Powerful, despairing . . . Beutner has taken loss and sadness, sharpened them, and shaped them into a tale at once profound and daring in what it refuses to give its readers. This is the dawn of an extremely promising career.”
—Open Letters Monthly

“Beutner renders her multilayered heroine with beauty and delicacy, and concerns herself with no less than the intricacies of the soul.”
Publishers Weekly
“Beutner spices up this classic tale with a decidedly Sapphic flavor.”

“Intriguingly imagined, with prose both lyrical and engaging.”
—Historical Novels Review
Product Details
ISBN: 9781641295512
ISBN-10: 1641295511
Publisher: Soho Press
Publication Date: September 5th, 2023
Pages: 312
Language: English