Andes resident writes epic poetic memoir

May 9—An Andes resident has written an epic poem as her debut and likely only novel.

"In high school, my daughter read The Odyssey and The Iliad," Mary Overly Davis said. She read The Odyssey one night after her daughter finished, and noticed similarities in her life to that of Odysseus and similarities of people she knew to other characters in the book. She was then inspired to write down her experiences to get the stories out. "I kept a journal," she said. "I have just always enjoyed writing."

The book, "Odysseus & Me" is part memoir, part fiction and written in free verse poetry, she said. Davis tells the story of her life during and after her husband's six-year battle with an ultimately fatal tumor. Friendships come and go, people die and other changes happen in one's life, that make that person who they are. "It's a lot of investigating of who you really are," after things happen, she said.

As Davis writes in the introduction, "It's a story of heartbreak, love, and coming to terms with one's innate character. It is also a story about an ordinary life. And some of it is true."

The poem is written like The Odyssey, and throughout the book, excerpts and footnotes tell the reader how the memoir correlates to different parts of The Odyssey. "In reality, I didn't know anyone as bad as the monsters in the Odyssey," she said. "A lot of it is hyperbole, a gross exaggeration. Writing in poetry form lends itself to that." The beginning of the book introduces the reader to Davis and the life she has lived, lists the mortal and immortal characters and the places where the book takes place. "I had my own cheat sheet [of the characters] so I could keep track of the characters."

Davis said she is a native of Texas and grew up as an "oil rig brat" moving to different places in the south. She moved to New York City after graduating from college and was an architect, working up to owning her own firm. She and her husband also owned a house in Andes. One day, walking through Central Park with her husband and 4-year-old daughter, her husband suffered a brain seizure and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her husband was also a native Texan, so the family moved to Austin to be closer to family. After her husband died, she remained in Texas with her daughter, but they spent their summers in Andes to get away from the Texas heat. She moved back to Andes after her daughter graduated from high school.

Davis spent many years working on her epic poem. "It was shelved for a while," she said. "When David said he'd like to read it, I picked it up again." Delhi resident David Krajicek, who owns News Ink Books, became the book's editor. The 300-page book, which also includes illustrations drawn by Davis, was designed by Stamford resident Terry Bradshaw. The book is available as a print on demand by Amazon. Copies of the book can be ordered from Diamond Hollow Books and other local bookstores. Signed copies are available at Diamond Hollow as well as Main Street Cards & Gifts and the Delaware Pantry in Delhi.

Davis said friends who have known her for 20 to 30 years who have read her book tell her there were things they read or saw, such as her drawings, that they didn't know about her. "It's kind of weird to be putting my life out there for people to see," she said. "It's a little scary because it's very personal."

A book signing, reading and reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at Diamond Hollow Books at 72 Main Street in Andes, to celebrate the publication of "Odysseus & Me." Davis will sign books and will give a brief talk and reading at 6 p.m.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at or 607-441-7221.