GREENVILLE — Helen Simonson, author of this year’s One Book One County Montcalm selection, “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand,” is at least as charming and entertaining as any of the characters found within the pages of her book.
From 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Simonson will share that charm, up close and in person, at Greenville High School’s Performing Arts Center. Afterward, Simonson will be on hand to sign copies of her book.
As a first-time author with a book on the New York Times’ Bestseller List, Simonson has had her fair share of speaking engagements in recent months. But the stay-at-home mother turned author hasn’t yet grown tired of them. In fact, she says, with two teenage sons under her roof, she enjoys the time away from home in New York.
“I’ve been doing a fair number of events,” Simonson said. “I enjoy it very much. As a mother with two teenage sons, I’m very happy to get out of the house, so long as there’s a hotel and room service. I never expected to be criss-crossing the country; the best thing about it is I get to eat food from all over the country.”
“Major Pettigrew” is Simonson’s first book. Simonson, who had contemplated writing a book for many years before following through on it, was more surprised than anyone at its initial success.
“I was just a stay-at-home mom looking for a new creative outlet,” Simonson said. “I was a year on the New York Times Bestseller List. That was entirely unexpected. Just to see the book printed and in book stores was more than I could have asked for.”
The book, which Simonson describes as having “decency and civility,” immediately struck a chord with readers. It’s underlying story deals with the process — both personal and societal — of overcoming racial prejudices endemic of modern life.
Despite the underlying seriousness of the book, much of the prose maintains a decidedly upbeat, humorous tone. It was this light-hearted style that helped sway One Book One County Montcalm organizer Maureen Burns to recommend the book as this year’s selection.
“At first the cover turned me off because it looked like a romance novel,” Burns said. “Then White Pine Library Director Katie Arwood recommended it and we looked at it again. It turns out there’s a lot of wit in the book. It’s definitely British humor in the traditional British style; it’s not the typical ‘ha-ha’ American humor.”
Since being named as this year’s selection, the book has been getting rave reviews from readers around the county.
“In all the book discussions I’ve been to, the people really seem to like it,” Burns said. “In the Greenville book club everybody liked it.”
Burns added she hopes Simonson’s upcoming personal appearance will help cement the book’s popularity locally.
“I would like it if people come to see her and have a really good time and laugh and learn more about her culture,” Burns said. “I’d like them to see how a regular person goes through the process of becoming an author.”
For her part, Simonson said she anticipates a lively evening with readers.
“I’m expecting to be thoroughly grilled by the readers of Greenville,” Simonson said. “I’m expecting them to pepper me with questions. I plan to talk about my writing process and how I transformed myself from stay-at-home mom to published author. I’ll probably talk a little bit about family and my two teenage boys. I’m hoping to get into a lively discussion.”
The event is free and open to the public.