The phenomenon of getting drunk and realizing the truth was first described in Fairfax writer Mary Overton’s favorite Bible passage, Psalm 60, verse 3, which in the author’s quasi-King James version goes, “Thou has shown thy people hard things: Thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment,” and provided the inspiration for Overton’s first published collection of short stories, The Wine of Astonishment.

Sudden clarity, however, is only part of the tale that gave the book its name, which concerns a woman’s search for a full-time job where she can fly, literally—feet lifted off the ground, arms flailing. After being laughed at by an employment agency, Overton’s heroine drinks wine at Communion because she realizes her quest is hopeless. She then becomes a hugely successful cosmetics salesperson.

The 43-year-old Overton says the story stemmed from her fascination with religious symbolism and that the topic has resonance in her own life.

“In a very fantastical, dreamlike setting, the story has to do with reconciling one’s self to where you end up in life,” says Overton, who lives a perfectly suburban existence, teaching fourth grade and sharing her life with a 10-year-old daughter, a librarian husband, a minivan, and a dog. “Very few of us wind up where we expect to be. It’s a tremendous struggle to get past denial, anger, and disappointment when you look back and all these dreams haven’t happened. How do you live with yourself? Do you play games with it? Do you ignore it? Do you fight it?”

Overton knows this struggle well. For years, becoming a

published writer seemed

about as distant as getting a salary and health benefits for fluttering above the ground. Before becoming a teacher, she was Encyclopedia Brittanica saleswoman of the year, and

she cleaned houses, sold cable TV door to door, worked for

the government, and sold

office furniture.

Says Overton, “It seems I’m able to be successful in everything I do except writing.”—Natalie Hopkinson