Feb 13, 2023

A New Novel by an Ol’ Pal, “Katya” Is Worth a Read

Prolific author Kathryn Mattingly writes a what-if tale

By Ed Goldman

While Kathryn Mattingly’s new novel “Katya” has a soupçon of suspense, a rasher of romance and a sliver of the supernatural, what it has in abundance is charm.

That’s not a putdown. Think of a novel you’ve read or movie you’ve seen about someone entering an alternate universe—as does Katya, a silk-screen artist, as is author Mattingly, among her other creative pursuits—and it may cause you puzzlement, despair or even derisive laughter (of the “Like that could never happen!” kind). 

Edgy Cartoon

Kat Mattingly in Paris

But what “Katya,” both the novel and the title character, provides is escapism—and, if you’re so inclined (or belong to a book club, especially one focused more on reading books than on drinking wine) a philosophical discourse on the nature of reality.

“Katya” is set in Napa, where Mattingly lived for a few years. In addition to making art, the title character tends a homegrown micro-farm. She’s also in an unfortunate marriage and is rescued, more or less, by falling into a coma that transports her to a better place—not Heaven, exactly, whose main entry requirement is death, but a place that allows her to see her life can be saved. And how to do it. 

“It’s really a what-if book,” says Mattingly in a phone interview, “not autobiographical. Well, parts of it are, I suppose. I think every book I write is, to some extent.”

“Katya” was published by Winter Goose Publishing. It’s available at Amazon and a handful of bookstores (which, of course, is roughly how many bookstores are still around).

Mattingly lives with her husband Dennis, a semi-retired arborist/forester who still consults with governmental agencies. The couple, who eloped 52 years ago this coming October, spent a decade in Sacramento, which is where I met them (she and I served on an arts council board). They now live in central Oregon in a high-desert community called Eagle Crest.

“It’s not far from Bend,” Mattingly explains, “and from our window you can even see the Cascades.” Dennis and Kat, as her friends and family call her, have four grown children, eight grandchildren “and even three great-grandchildren. That feels strange to say that. But we did start awfully early.”

Mattingly’s eclectic output of books may be a byproduct of the couple’s somewhat peripatetic life together, which has seen them live in Illinois (where they’re from), Oregon, Colorado and California (both its capital and Napa). “I write because I can’t imagine not writing,” she says. “I read obsessively and I’m an avid movie fan. Most importantly, I’m passionate about friends and family. Spending time with girlfriends is much more of a priority to me than when I was younger. I didn’t seem to need the camaraderie of other women in my youth, perhaps because I was too busy raising our four children, but in this phase of my life I find them to be one of my greatest sources of inspiration and joy.”

She also readily shares that she and her husband “have always been people of faith.” In an autobiographical sketch, she expands on that. “I am passionate about God and nature, the two of which are never far apart,” she writes. “He is everywhere on my morning walk through the high desert. God is the brook babbling beside me. He is the birds squawking in the trees, the frogs sitting beside the pond, the lizards that scurry by. I inhale the scent of juniper and fir, and know God is there among the trees. I see His glory right outside my window multiple times a day – in the sunrise reflected off the mountains, in the magnificent sunsets at dusk, in the full moon staring me straight in the eye outside my bedroom at 3 am. On a clear night I look up at the sky and am in awe of every constellation God sprinkled over my head.”

Her books to date include “Benjamin,” a novel in which the nature of her faith is explored but far-from-hammered, “Fractured Hearts,” a short-story collection, and the novels “Journey,” “The Tutor” and “Olivia’s Ghost.”

If you’re looking for a read that’s thought-provoking but not head-pounding, I recommend you put “Katya” on your shopping list. It’s an experience for which, for once, the first time’s the charm.

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).