Haley Herfurth

As the winter of 1963 encroaches on Gunflint, Minnesota, Harry Eide and his 18-year-old son, Gustav, set off into the wilderness in a canoe. As the two face the ice and snow, they must also confront the demons, both real and metaphorical, that follow them from Gunflint. What happens to them out in the elements is a secret father and son will share for decades.

Thirty years later, an elderly Harry—demented by the passing years—heads out again into the cold, alone this time, vanishing into the vastness that could have so easily claimed both himself and his son many winters before. When Harry is pronounced dead, a troubled Gus finally shares the story of that first wilderness trek. 

Minneapolis author Peter Geye has touched on themes of family and wilderness in his previous novels, Safe from the Sea and The Lighthouse Road, both set in Minnesota. In Wintering, Geye has woven an artfully crafted tale of the special bond between father and son, the complexity of nature—both human and otherwise—and the idea that, sometimes, one must venture out to find a way back.

 

This article was originally published in the June 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

As the winter of 1963 encroaches on Gunflint, Minnesota, Harry Eide and his 18-year-old son, Gustav, set off into the wilderness in a canoe. As the two face the ice and snow, they must also confront the demons, both real and metaphorical, that follow them from Gunflint. What happens to them out in the elements is a secret father and son will share for decades.

In the small township of Bledsoe, Mississippi, sits Singer’s Trailer Park, a collection of trailers, campers and sometimes tents. Inside Singer’s lives a clever young girl named Solemn Redvine, whose family prefers to keep their distance from their neighbors—with the exception of Solemn’s father, whose occasional wanderings lead Solemn to believe the infant child of a couple down the way may be her half-sibling.

When Solemn witnesses a shocking event late one night in Singer’s, she struggles to reclaim the sense of innocence she felt before and find her balance. As more changes happen to Solemn’s family dynamic and within the community, she wonders who she will become as her life develops among such turmoil. She longs to leave Singer’s, where she feels trapped by her connection to a crime she saw and can’t forget. When Solemn’s father’s latest mistake leads to her removal from her parents’ custody, Solemn gets the escape she has been looking for, albeit under less-than-perfect circumstances. But she finds herself facing the same questions about her identity. There might not be an easy way to grow up.

Kalisha Buckhanon has presented realistic portraits of modern African-American life in her previous novels, Upstate and Conception. With Solemn, she has created an emotional and expressive novel about family, obligation and community. This twisting, expressive coming-of-age story not only offers readers a young girl’s experience of seeking her place in the world, but also illustrates the struggle of life in the rural South.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

In the small township of Bledsoe, Mississippi, sits Singer’s Trailer Park, a collection of trailers, campers and sometimes tents. Inside Singer’s lives a clever young girl named Solemn Redvine, whose family prefers to keep their distance from their neighbors—with the exception of Solemn’s father, whose occasional wanderings lead Solemn to believe the infant child of a couple down the way may be her half-sibling.

In post-World War II Thirroul, Australia, Annika Lachlan has grown a life that, to her, is perfect. In the years since the war, she and her family have found peace and purpose. But when her husband, Mac, is killed in a tragic accident, she must raise their daughter on her own, as two more grieving people in the postwar world. Annika accepts a job at the Railway Institute’s Library, searching there between the pages for a new meaning for her life.

Local poet Roy McKinnon is also searching for meaning in pages and words; during the war, he was prolific, sorting through the high emotions of the time by penning lines. In the years since it ended, however, he has found himself unable to find his voice and the inspiration that came so easily in the chaotic years. Meanwhile, local doctor Frank Draper just wants things to go back to the way they were before the war, but is haunted by the people he couldn’t help, despite his efforts: survivors of Nazi concentration camps.

The Railwayman’s Wife is a three-pronged story that explores life, grief, and how to cope with the intersection of the two, written in a sweeping, if at times overly lyrical, style that conveys the breadth of emotions the characters feel. Brisbane-based author Ashley Hay has published four nonfiction books and the novel The Body in the Clouds, and The Railwayman’s Wife received the Colin Roderick Award when it was published in Australia. While exploring how three different people experience life after war and loss, The Railwayman’s Wife uses beautiful prose and empathetic characters to tell a story of both hope and heartache.

In post-World War II Thirroul, Australia, Annika Lachlan has grown a life that, to her, is perfect. In the years since the war, she and her family have found peace and purpose. But when her husband, Mac, is killed in a tragic accident, she must raise their daughter on her own, as two more grieving people in the postwar world.

BookPage Fiction Top Pick, March 2016

On a bleak, harsh winter afternoon in Chosen, a small town in upstate New York, local art history professor George Clare comes home to find his 3-year-old daughter, Franny, hiding in fear and his wife, Catherine, murdered. George becomes the chief suspect, and the investigation turns up details about his personal life—secret relationships, temper issues, a disintegrating marriage—that cast his innocence in doubt for everyone but his closest family. Still, the police investigating remain unable to pin his wife’s murder on George, and the crime goes unsolved for decades.

Death seems to hang over Chosen; the town is rural, close-knit and poor, with a dark history—the Clares’ own house was the site of a suicide not long before the family moved in. The community struggles not only to understand who killed Catherine, but also how and why. Years will pass—and Franny Clare will have to return to her childhood home, now long abandoned—before any justice is found.

In her third novel, Elizabeth Brundage, who has an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, combines a classic murder mystery with a gripping psychological thriller, exploring the complexities of grief, relationships—romantic, familial and friendly—and small-town life. All Things Cease to Appear is a smart, original take on the mystery genre, with nuanced depictions of rural New York, the people who inhabit it and the secrets they keep.

 

This article was originally published in the March 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

On a bleak, harsh winter afternoon in Chosen, a small town in upstate New York, local art history professor George Clare comes home to find his 3-year-old daughter, Franny, hiding in fear and his wife, Catherine, murdered. George becomes the chief suspect, and the investigation turns up details about his personal life—secret relationships, temper issues, a disintegrating marriage—that cast his innocence in doubt for everyone but his closest family. Still, the police investigating remain unable to pin his wife’s murder on George, and the crime goes unsolved for decades.

Outcasts alienated by their peers, Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead found each other in junior high, forming a tenuous friendship. Patricia was a budding witch and Laurence was a tech whiz, successfully developing a two-second time machine and a potentially sentient computer. But after a painful parting of ways, the two assumed they would never see each other again.

Reunited unexpectedly as adults living in San Francisco, the pair discover they both now use their talents for the same cause: working to save the planet, each in their own way. Patricia attended a hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted and now works with a group of magicians to secretly fix the world’s problems, while Laurence is an engineering genius who works with a group trying to avert global catastrophe by technological intervention. Despite their separate paths, Patricia and Laurence keep being pushed together. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them is determined to force them to work together to save the world.

Author Charlie Jane Anders, editor-in-chief of io9.com, seamlessly melds science fiction and fantasy in All the Birds in the Sky. Anders’ debut novel, Choir Boy, won the 2006 Lambda Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Edmund White Award. In All the Birds in the Sky, Anders adeptly twines magic, surrealism, technological innovation and machinery into a quirky story that, at its base, is about searching for common ground in a world of differences.

This article was originally published in the February 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Saving the world with science (and some magic) in All the Birds in the Sky.

In the final year of the Civil War, 15-year-old horse thief Callum meets a girl who changes his life forever. Both he and the girl, Ava, are orphans—Callum is from Ireland and hasn’t seen his family in years, and Ava’s father and brother were casualties of war. After Callum’s band of marauders finds Ava in her crumbling, dilapidated home and threatens her, Callum sets out to rescue her, leaving the group of pillagers behind and stealing their leader’s horse as transport. 

Soon the two find themselves pursued across the savage, war-ridden wilderness by a ruthless slave hunter, with a bounty on their heads. With dreams of making it to Atlanta, if not the Florida coast, Callum and Ava barrel headlong through the bleak, cold landscape with little food and protection, pushing through disappointment after disappointment with the hope that peace lies just around the corner.

Taylor Brown grew up on the Georgia coast and has lived in Buenos Aires, San Francisco and western North Carolina, where much of Fallen Land is set. Filled with metaphor, poetic imagery and rich descriptions, Fallen Land is a beautifully written chronicle of love and hardship, following two people who are meant to be as they fight their way through a world seemingly set against them.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

In the final year of the Civil War, 15-year-old horse thief Callum meets a girl who changes his life forever. Both he and the girl, Ava, are orphans—Callum is from Ireland and hasn’t seen his family in years, and Ava’s father and brother were casualties of war. After Callum’s band of marauders finds Ava in her crumbling, dilapidated home and threatens her, Callum sets out to rescue her, leaving the group of pillagers behind and stealing their leader’s horse as transport.

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