Publication Date

Spring 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Comparative Literature


Cathleen Miller

Subject Areas

Literature, American


Autumn Garden is a novel using a semi-omniscient third-person narrator who conveys the perspectives of ten-year-old Nick Lucera, his mother, Mary, and father, Tony. The story challenges conventional beliefs of mortality as Nick confronts the greatest loss of his young life, his mother's impending death. The novel is set in 1970's coastal California.

Two characters influence how Nick processes events in his life: seventeen-year-old neighbor, Brian, an evangelical Christian, and Sal Amato, an acquaintance of Nick's parents, whose insights range from the curious to the fantastic. Brian's friendship is a refuge for Nick, who suffers regularly from the bullying inflicted upon him by schoolmates. While finding sanctuary in his relationship with Brian, Nick also feels fear at the apocalyptical beliefs that Brian espouses.

The story is a work of realism in the tradition of Chekhov, with a subtle element of fantasy, drawing on such works as Toni Morrison's Beloved. The character Sal appears to possess abilities that defy conventional understanding as perceived by the other characters. Sal seems to influence those around him nonverbally, and he displays this ability by compelling all three main characters in ways that change their views of reality.