THE READING, Barbara Monier’s fifth novel, was released on September 27, 2022 (Amika Press).    She has four previously published novels. YOU, IN YOUR GREEN SHIRT and A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME are available on Amazon.  She published PUSHING THE RIVER and  A ROCKY ORCHARD with Amika Press. 




An unexpected – and unrecognized – visitor attends veteran writer Esme’s reading and brings events of forty years past squarely into her present.  Struggling with writer’s block and uncertain about a future with her romantic partner, Esme undertakes a journey through her own history.  Esme revisits a particular year she had written off as the worst of her life as well as her whirlwind early marriage.  In the process, Esme ultimately overcomes the wounded hesitancy that has characterized her life and rediscovers her former courage and openness to risk.


“Barbara Monier’s The Reading is a literary novel about an established writer named Esme. From the outset, you are immersed in Esme’s vivid world. Esme is critically aware of her feelings and those of the people surrounding her. This is partly because her father died when she was very young, and this trauma has left a lasting impression. When a friend from her worst days in college shows up forty-odd years later at one of her book readings, Esme is confronted with her troubled past and identity. On the same day, her long-term partner asks Esme to take the next step in their relationship. The timing of these two events leaves Esme bewildered, causing her to reflect on other factors that have shaped her into the person she is now.

Barbara Monier allows us to accompany Esme on her journey of self-discovery. The Reading deals with the human condition of loneliness, addresses the complexity of relationships (regardless of age), and illustrates the difficulty of understanding both youth and loss. I relished the descriptions of Esme’s physical surroundings because they were poignant and evocative. Monier also uses humor, and I found myself laughing out loud at some of Esme’s observations in her internal monologue. Besides her wit, Monier’s intertextuality and literary references are particularly apt and add context to Esme’s character. The novel also touches on the contemporary concerns of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Reading will appeal to anyone who appreciates self-reflective writing and a complex main character.”  —Kayleigh Perumal, Readers’ Favorite

“In Barbara Monier’s masterful novel The Reading, we meet Esmé, an established writer in her early sixties. She is giving a reading. We are there with her every step of the way, including watching her being festooned with a Mardi Gras style necklace. As she’s signing books she’s surprised by a visitor, Tom Killarney, who traveled from the East Coast to be at her reading that night. He tells her that she changed his life, back when they were freshmen at the Ivy League school she hated. Later in the novel we learn how Esme’s speaking truth to him in her outspoken, caring way halted his downward slide at school. “Tommy, what the fuck are you doing,” Esmé asked.

The novel moves back and forth in time. We readers get to see Esmé at the hated school as we live through each trauma and disappointment with her. Esmé says: “stories are never about events.” We hear Esme’s precocious voice, very much like her namesake Esmé in J.D. Salinger’s story, as she takes us through that dreadful year and on her adult journey with her boyfriend Gino.

There are some gorgeous, meaningful passages, such as:

“It is amazing the lies we can tell ourselves- how fully we can convince ourselves, fool ourselves into believing that various things about us are true. With a spirit of creativity and a zest for denial, I managed to bend and twist my great dislike of eating alone into a belief that I never actually did it.”
“The way the morning sun creates an ever-shifting mosaic of brilliant glints that dance across the surface of the harbor remains as breathtaking as ever. And yet, mornings are entirely changed. What used to be a steady rumble of white noise that the lakefront traffic produced has died down to a murmur, the low purr of a gentle breeze.”
“I get it now. I get that Montgomery Treadwell III—and the scores of others like him—had always been and would always be the same. But what about Tom? What about the smart, seething boy who had bought me turtlenecks and brought me coffee and handed out flyers side-by-side with me—how did the Toms of the world go from wanting to make real and good and lasting changes to turning tail, wandering away, at the very least looking in the other direction. Or perhaps, as Rob said, taking part in fucking over so many others, directly taking part, choking the life out of them with their own bare hands.
What happened to us?”
“Let go of the ghosts. Take the risks.”
Thank you, Esmé, for speaking truth so brilliantly. Thank you, Barbara Monier, for writing this up front and personal novel that’s so profound, so witty, so real. I’m not surprised your caring, take no prisoners voice changed lives.” —Carol Orange, author, A Discerning Eye

Esme, a noted sixtyish writer, has been living alone in a home she loves. She is reasonably happy with her situation, until Gino, her companion of many years, asks her to move in with him. Then, after a reading of her latest book, she is approached by Tommy, an old friend she hasn’t seen since her first year of college. The meeting awakens memories of what she considered the worst year of her life, when she had been introduced into a company of old-money, upper-class individuals that represented ideals she found not only uncomfortable but ethically upsetting. Tommy was her only real friend during that year. His reappearance, though brief, causes her to reexamine her life values and her decision to move in with Gino. Chapters alternate between present-day and 1972 as the reader learns of Esme’s life in two very different worlds as she makes decisions about her future, and wrestles with the realization that her views of today’s world have very much to do with her college experience. Monier’s style of writing is compelling, filled with details and occurrences of everyday life that most people don’t notice, but once the author mentions them, we know how meaningful they are. This is a book that will make you examine your own values, and is a must read, particularly if you are unhappy about what is happening in today’s troubling times.” —Patricia Camalliere, author, Cora Tozzi Historical Mystery Series

With striking sensitivity, humor, and superb awareness, Barbara Monier brings to life the trials of a young creative woman finding her way in the world, and yet through it all in her older years, the woman finds herself still searching. The author weaves past and present beautifully through artistic touches — including odes to James Joyce and the great naturalist poet Gary Snyder. And in turn is able to create a literary gem with the kinds of characters you deeply care about and would love to spend hours with, talking about art, life, and the unavoidable connective tissue between the two. It’s a masterful story from a masterful writer.” —David Berner, author, Sandman: A Golf Tale and 9 others

I read this novel over two days, which is not my normal practice. I can always find reasons to stop reading and The Reading is not what I would describe as a “page turner,” in the sense that I felt compelled to tear through the book to find out what happens next.

On the contrary, the writing is so clean and the voice so authentic, that there is a tendency to take it slow and reflect on what’s on the page. It is the story of a seasoned novelist, Esme (named after the character in the Salinger short story), who is on a reading tour for her latest novel, when she encounters a man whom she knew forty years ago when they were both first year students at a prestigious university. That was the “worst year of her life,” so she is shocked to discover that the man had come to her reading to tell her she had changed the course of his life.

Okay, so that is a page-turning revelation, but when we turn the page, we don’t learn about this man/boy from the past, we learn that Esme is on this extended reading tour because she has writer’s block. She is out of stories – a frightening prospect for a novelist.

The encounter triggers memories for Esme. Monier does a masterful job of sharing the hopes and fears of a young woman away from home for the first tine in her life and struggling to find her place. This is a poignant, often funny, life-story of a character whose company I enjoyed. She is the kind of person I wouldn’t mind having a beer with, or perhaps in her case, a shot of Southern Comfort.

Highly recommended.”  —Len Joy, author, Dry Heat

“This latest novel from a writer who loves language and crafts stories that deeply mine a character’s past to allow them to understand a key truth that illuminates their present, takes this formula to a new height. Here, in a reverie triggered by a surprise guest at one of her readings, author Esme reflects on “the worst year of her life.” A year when the reluctant student—fortified by a hard shell as protection from an old grief– arrives as a square-peg scholarship student in a very round-hole ivy league college. Her heavily Salinger-inspired experiences are wry, painful and relatable. After this year, the narrative moves forward, dipping into key inflection points along her 62-year-old life, involving past lovers, a carnival physic’s prophecy, and the tragedy of COVID. These detailed memories allow her to crack away at that shell to understand her impact on others, shed her grief and open her heart to the opportunities offered by her current lover. It’s a deeply personal and “quiet” story that goes in and out of time and arrives at less a climax than a massive epiphany, as Esme assembles the previously mysterious puzzle pieces of her life into a recognizable pattern that has been within her grasp all along. A positive message in our turbulent times.” —Rita Dragonette, author, The Fourteenth of September



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Stories: An Introduction*

More than fifteen thousand years ago, late Stone Age man fashioned hollow tubes from wood, bone, and plants. Using these tubes, they blew pulverized pigments against the vast cave walls now known as Lascaux.  Others dug and gouged the walls to engrave them.  Before there was language, before there was writing, man told stories.                      …


AUDIO BOOKS The audio book of THE ROCKY ORCHARD has been recorded and is in the final stages of production. Actor and voice artist Danielle Joy Foley did an outstanding job narrating the book — bringing life to the characters and beautifully capturing the spirit of the book. Watch for details about the audio book …

My Novels

PLEASE check out my Amazon author page, and my completed novels!


The Rocky Orchard (Amika Press)  released May 12, 2020.   


A youthful woman returns to her old family farm, a vacation site and pivotal refuge throughout her young life. While she is there, she meets and befriends an elderly woman. Mazie is adrift on a sea of memory as she gazes toward the rocky orchard above the farmhouse when Lula emerges eerily from the fog and a gentle, cautiously loving relationship between the youth and old age begins.

As the two women meet each morning and play cards, Mazie considers the shape of her life and the nature of her recollections through stories she tells her new, older friend. The women travel through Mazie’s stories as if together they are tentatively feeling their way through the stony risks hidden by the mist beneath the apple trees, and like a vision disappearing into the distance, it becomes increasingly unclear exactly what events in Mazie’s life caused her to return to the farm. And as she explores the illusory intersection of the past, present and future, Mazie begins to question whether it was, in fact, a coincidence that Lula came into view among the trees one cool morning—and whether anything she believes or feels is real.


“Overflowing with vivid scenery and self-reflection, The Rocky Orchard is a slow-burning, psychological journey in an evocative setting. Mazie is the compelling young protagonist in search of answers…while Lula is an ephemeral core of mystery that makes the plot feel like a tantalizing secret.… Time, fate, family, and modern struggles come to a thought-provoking head in this engagingly tangled tale.” —Self-Publishing Review

“Monier intertwines nature with human emotion…[her] writing is wonderfully unpredictable and her use of structure is masterful.” —Kristiana Reed, Reedsy Discovery

“Monier is a talented author who has crafted an enthralling dreamlike tale… Intriguing from the very start…an excellent read.” —Charles Remington, Readers’ Favorite

“Luminous…The Rocky Orchard is a moment that contains all the moments of a life, the fullness of being. This is the best Monier has ever written.” —James R. Petersen, Story Slam winner, author, editor

“A return to a bucolic haven that may or may not be the refuge it seems. A mysterious stranger emerging from a magical orchard, prompting the narrator to share a floodgate of memories over a running game of cards that smacks of The Seventh Seal. A series of flashbacks through the point of view of preternaturally insightful younger ‘selves,’ offering breadcrumbs of growing awareness that what must be believed may very well be the last thing that could be imagined.… The Twilight Zone aspect is what blows The Rocky Orchard into the stratosphere.… A novel you’ll want to reread the minute you finish.” —Rita Dragonette, author, The Fourteenth of September

“Monier unfolds an eloquent story with stunning grace, piece-by-piece, word by word, building on deeply held beliefs, the mysteries of youth and age, life and death, and the nature of experience. The Rocky Orchard tenderly questions what is real, what is illusion, and asks why some chapters of our lives are buried while others cannot be forgotten. A contemplative and deeply expressed story of human connection, loss, love, heaven and earth, and how we choose to define the mark we leave on the world. This book will linger with you for a long time.” —David W. Berner, author, Things Behind the Sun: A Novel

Full Review By Charles Remington for Readers’ Favorite:

Mazie sits on the swing on the porch of her family home, she is alone but comfortable and happy to be there. Her senses are alive to her surroundings; the clanking of the chain holding the swing, the warm balmy weather, the earthy smells from the nearby orchard – an orchard located in such an odd, inhospitable part of the farm. Her mind drifts back to her early life, then on to her teens when she first became involved with a boy called Sean. The Rocky Orchard by Barbara Monier tells how one morning Mazie is interrupted in her musings and recollections by an elderly female marching through her orchard and across her land. Surprised but glad of the company, she engages the elderly woman in conversation which prompts regular morning visits. Mazie discovers that the woman’s name is Lula and, like her, she likes to play card games. So, every day they sit on the porch with Mazie reflecting on episodes from her life while Lula deals the cards. As Mazie’s reflections become increasingly vivid, some happy, some sad, some disturbing, she starts to wonder what is actually going on. Why is she there? How did she arrive? Who is Lula? Is there some purpose to this seemingly innocuous daily routine?

Barbara Monier is a talented author who has crafted an enthralling dreamlike tale that gently picks apart the central character’s life. Her fears and longings, joys and sorrows are brought to life by way of the author’s eloquent prose. Though grounded in Mazie’s family home, an otherworldly atmosphere permeates the narrative. Well-written and peopled with solid believable characters Ms. Monier’s descriptions are a joy. I find it hard to pigeonhole The Rocky Orchard in any particular genre but can honestly say that I enjoyed it. Intriguing from the very start, it was an excellent read. Highly recommended.


Audio and Video

  • LISTEN to the wonderful interview with Rick Kogan from WGN Radio about THE READING


  • Barbara Monier reads from THE READING and talks about the creative process behind the writing
  • SPECIAL SNEAK PEEK of THE READING audiobook read by Melinda Cumming!

An amazing number of really talented voice artists auditioned to narrate the audiobook of The Reading. Wow, did I ever get lucky in my choice of Melinda Cumming! Melinda brought my work to life in ways that I could never have imagined. I am honored by her work, and I am very pleased to offer you the sample above.

  • LISTEN to Esme’s COVID playlist from THE READING

As COVID-19 inundated the world in early 2020, The Reading narrator Esme had just moved into a new home after twenty-five years in her previous location. Gripped by the dislocation of the unfamiliar and an uncertain future, Esme immersed herself in reflection about her history. Contemplating the loneliness and loss that had occupied her early life, Esme would have been drawn to songs from a wide span of time that tapped these themes.

  • LISTEN to Esme’s college playlist from THE READING

Esme, the narrator of The Reading, arrived at her first year of college in 1973. Though it’s understated in the book, Esme refers to wearing T-shirts from concerts that marked “the high points of my high school life.” Music would have been tremendously important to Esme, a passion second only to her writing. As she was primarily a poet, Esme would have been particularly drawn to singer-songwriters. And, as a true child of the 60’s, she would have gravitated not only to the folk/protest movement, but to the roots of these musicians as well.
Not one to be pigeonholed, however, Esme would have also loved a wide variety of good ol’ rock ‘n roll. Priding herself on her devotion to searching out innovation, Esme would have had an ear to the ground for the new and different – starting from the time she first heard Frank Zappa’s “The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet” from the album Freak Out – which at 12+ minutes, was a tad long to include.

Hope you enjoy Esme’s College Playlist.

  • SPECIAL SNEAK PEEK of THE ROCKY ORCHARD audiobook read by Danielle Joy Fowler!
  • LISTEN TO THE PODCAST with host G.P. Gottlieb for the New in Books Network
  • Take a look at the short promo video for THE ROCKY ORCHARD
  • Here are four video readings from PUSHING THE RIVER.
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