TWISTED TREE
by Kent Meyers

Publisher:  Harcourt Brace

Pub Date:  September, 2009

Format:   Hardcover

Brief Description
A new novel by PEN/West finalist, NEA award-winner, New York Times Notable novelist and essayist Kent Meyers. 

ACCOLADES FOR TWISTED TREE

*Society of Midland Authors 2009-2010 Awards Competition winner

* Indie Next List Notable list for November 2009

* Indie Next List Notable list for November 2009

 

PRAISE FOR TWISTED TREE
“Opening this beautifully lyrical novel with one of the tensest, most harrowing first chapters in recent memory, Meyers grabs the reader and never lets go. A serial killer who preys on anorexic young women has set his sights on 20-year-old Hayley Jo Zimmerman. Luring the emaciated girl into his big blue Lincoln, he begins his torture by offering her a candy bar. Meyers then tells intimate stories of those connected to Hayley Jo in the tiny, desolate town of Twisted Tree, S. Dak. Her buffalo rancher father comes unmoored after his daughter’s death; her best friend Laura is saddled with guilt and regret – recurring themes throughout this powerful tale. Once you enter Twisted Tree, you’ll be spellbound.” 
--People (October, 2009)

“The novel is brimming with arresting descriptions, and the western setting is employed to surprising effect…. Meyers's small masterpiece deserves comparison to the work of Raymond Carver, Joy Williams and Peter Matthiessen.” 
--Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)

"Meyers’ prose is strikingly physical, sometimes thrillingly so."
--Kirkus

 

 

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"Though identified as a "novel" on the title page, this is more accurately a collection of loosely related short stories, all set in or near Twisted Tree in western South Dakota. The central event binding the stories is the murder of Hayley Jo Zimmerman by a serial killer who targets anorexics after befriending them online. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character, not all of whom knew Hayley Jo personally, though all know of the event. Other "ghosts" haunt the characters' lives, whether memories of lost loved ones or painful echoes from the past. We're in dark territory here, with little humor to relieve the grim tone. But Meyers has great respect for the diversity of his characters' rich internal lives and experiences, though they might appear outwardly stoic and unemotional. VERDICT Recommended for readers of good literary fiction set in the American West."
—Library Journal

"Twisted Tree is a piercing and original book, beautifully written and conceived. In it Kent Meyers has created a lyrical atlas, revealing all that lies beneath his indelible world of freeway towns and bison ranches--a haunted territory of regret, longing and guilt."
-- Jess Walter, author of Citizen Vince and Over Tumbled Graves

“Twisted Tree makes me think of Winesburg, and the fine line between plain folks and grotesques--how one day, through the quirks of circumstance, we find ourselves on the other side of that line, and wonder how long we've been there. Like Russell Banks in The Sweet Hereafter, Kent Meyers spins out his intimate life stories from the hub of a smalltown tragedy and takes us into places we never thought we'd go.” 
– Stewart O’Nan, author of Songs for the Missing and Last Night at the Lobster

“It's hard to find Chinese spices in Twisted Tree, South Dakota, but you'll find just about everything else in Kent Meyers' evocation of the American West, including a world of fascinating characters all tugged toward their central star, the lost girl Hayley Jo Zimmermann. Meyers, like Faulkner and McCarthy, knows that the smallest corner of the country can contain the universe. This is a brilliant and lyrical novel.” 
– Marjorie Sandor, author of Night Gardner and Portrait of My Mother

"Twisted Tree brings all of the dynamics of rural America to life with vivid prose and true to life characters. Kent Meyers is writing some of the most groundbreaking novels about the West today. He looks at this part of the country without blinking, and writes it just as he sees it. A fabulous writer." 
--Russell Rowland, author of In Open Spaces and The Watershed Years

"In the riveting pages of Twisted Tree, Kent Meyers has expanded the map of his imaginative territory to produce his own brand of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County on the stark Midwestern plains. Revolving around one young woman's absence, the town's varied stories take on dramatic new dimensions. Present and past collide, exposing the delicate mix of history and dream that shapes the American landscape." 
-- Judith Kitchen, author of The House on Eccles Road

"A master wordsmith and storyteller, Kent Meyers brings us characters who, like so many of us, take years, a lifetime even to face their histories, lying to each other and themselves along the way. So the revelations don't come straight at us but from an oblique angle, which just makes the hard truths we learn even more devastating. The author's vision is wise and compassionate; he honors everyone's story, not out of charity, but to highlight the spectacular web we are creating each moment -- connecting time, space, people, the land. I don't come across novels like this very often -- gorgeously written, addictively entertaining, suspenseful, and spirit-full." 
-- Susan Power, author of Roofwalker and The Grass Dancer

"Twisted Tree is a lyrical, gorgeously wrought schemata of singular lives glancing off, gracing and intertwining abundantly with others’. In every chapter, its geography gathers dimension and explodes with exponential intimacies. With the hand of a deeply caring maker, Kent Meyers points us towards the mystery of which we are all part."
—Lia Purpura, author of On Looking

"Kent Meyers inhabits his people's lives, opening their secret hearts without fear or judgment. Meyers loves as God might love: with wonder and joy, with infinite sorrow. Those bold and curious enough to enter the dangerous world of Twisted Tree will be tenderly transfigured, haunted and sustained by the intricate web of compassion that binds the living to the dead, the saved to the shattered." 
~ Melanie Rae Thon, author of Sweet Hearts and First, Body

Accolades for the Work of Wolves
* #20 on the BookSense bestseller list
* a BookSense selection
* Finalist for the Minnesota Book Award
* New York Public Library selection for inclusion in their Books for the Teen Age 2005
* A Christian Science Monitor Noteworthy Book of the Year

Previous Accolades for Kent Meyers
*
PEN/West Finalist
* Minnesota State Book Award winner
* Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
* New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Prior Endorsements
"Intelligent and intuitive--a very promising writer."
--Peter Matthiessen

"Kent Meyers evokes his people with fierce compassion.  In these spare and elegant tales, stark beauty is the merciful counterpoint of sorrow."
--Melanie Rae Thon

"The Work of Wolves is quietly, majestically elegiac.  As the Old West reaches a collision course with its own history, four men?an old-fashioned cowboy, a German exchange student, and two antithetical Lakota from the rez?must determine its future.  Love has many meanings in this landscape, and all are as difficult as the land itself.  From the triangulation of cultures, a fourth is born?one in which justice finds a new and surprising expression.  In Kent Meyers' deft hands, detail activates imagination; time slows, then expands to create a lyric space in which motive is turned and turned again on the lathe of insight."
--Judith Kitchen, author of The House on Eccles Road

"Written with simple, poetic dignity and a savvy for the land that can only come from having been raised up in it with eyes wide open."
--Sam Shepard (for WITNESS OF COMBINES)

"Meyers tells stories with precision and joy.  He understands how the rhythms of the land bind farmers, give them hope and purpose."
--Linda Hasselstrom (for WITNESS OF COMBINES)


Reviews
“Masterful detail of life on the Plains, in a third novel from Meyers....The author's The River Warren defied description, by genre or any other way, and this outing is much the same. It starts with a brilliant piece of horse-trading wit, mindful of Faulkner's "Spotted Horses" in The Hamlet....Superb dialogue.”
--Kirkus

“The Work of Wolves" sometimes reads like the work of golden retrievers. It's a little too big, a little too beautiful, and it jumps all over the place, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Kent Meyers's new novel is the kind of book that demands and rewards fierce loyalty….If Paula Cole is still wondering where all the cowboys have gone, she should meet Carson Fielding, the sensitive, steady-eyed hero of "The Work of Wolves."….Of course, skittish cynics will bolt at the earnest quality of Meyers's story, but I instantly fell under its spell and have been eager to find other people who will love it ever since….It's just one of Meyers's many surprising moves that he's written such a passionate love story with no love scenes. …It's another daring move on Meyers's part to try to weave these disparate characters together. And it's remarkable that he does it so beautifully. …"The Work of Wolves" would rather reach for profundity than play safely on the ground with irony…. it manages to convey some stirring insight about the nature of families, the essence of duty, and the sacred quality of land….It's also a really cool story. I feel certain that somewhere in Hollywood, there's a young Clint Eastwood waiting on tables who could be propelled into stardom by "The Work of Wolves." The movie rights haven't been sold yet, and the finer points of the novel probably wouldn't survive that translation anyway, but even a typically glossy Hollywood version could bring this powerful book the attention it deserves. That might be one more risk Meyers should take.”
--Christian Science Monitor

"The novel's fine characterizations, crisp dialogue and fully realized sense of place make [THE WORK OF WOLVES] compelling."
--The Denver Post

 "A deeply felt tale of family ties and reverence for the land, this work should find a readership well beyond regional callections. Recommended for most public libraries."
--Library Journal

"Meyers's third novel is a gorgeously written, exacting exploration of duty and retribution set in dusty rural South Dakota. There's no love lost between horse trainer Carson Fielding and land baron Magnus Yarborough ever since a confident 14-year-old Carson got the better of Magnus in a horse buy. But Carson, now 26, is broke, and Magnus needs someone to train his horses and teach his wife, Rebecca, to ride. Carson and Rebecca fall for each other, and though their relationship remains in the realm of perfectly rendered, unconsummated desire, Magnus becomes convinced they're having an affair. In a bizarre act of revenge, he hides and starves the horses Carson trained. When two teenagers, Lakota math whiz Earl Walks Alone and German exchange student Willi Schubert, discover the abused animals, they plot with Carson to save them; alcoholic Ted Kills Many soon joins the mission. Meyers weaves the folklore and legend of Lakota culture with the tension between ranchers who have worked the land for generations and the greed of those who would take it away from them. His spare dialogue is brilliantly and often comically expressive, and Carson, his taciturn, rational hero, is an original and compelling character. Strong themes of generational responsibility and family history add resonance to this gratifying, very American novel."
--Publishers Weekly

"Meyers, building on the emotional plentitude found in THE LIGHT IN THE CROSSING (1999), sets in motion finely realized characters and explores our complex attachements to place and family. ...Meyers, imaginative and equally attuned to uniqueness and universality, awakens sorrow, compassion, and wonder in this vivid, covertly metaphysical, and viscerally dramatic novel of tragic cultural legacies, personal valor, and boundary--dispelling revelations."
--Booklist (STARRED REVIEW)

 

Past Reviews
"...like [Eudora] Welty and her neighbor William Faulkner--and Louise Erdrich and Lewis Nordan after them--Kent Meyers has claimed his own postage stamp of territory:  the small farm town of Cloten, Minnesota....Throughout this collection, Meyers demonstrates a fine eye for detail and a good ear for language, but he never indulges in wordplay merely for its own sake, never lets it distract him from his real job--revealing what lies in his characters' hearts....Like its great predecessor, "Winesburg, Ohio," "Light in the Crossing" speaks eloquently of isolation in the midst of community, but also of the possibility of belonging."
--New York Times Book Review

"Meyers, who writes with biblical intensity, returns to the small Minnesota town of Cloten, the setting of his novel The River Warren , in this collection of interlocking stories. He portrays farm people who possess an intimate understanding of death and the stoicism of those who routinely face the unexpected: the obliteration of a blizzard, ruined crops, a child's fatal accident. In the astonishing title story, two bored young men play "Cornfield Roulette," racing in the dark with their headlights off through the green tunnels late summer corn builds over gravel roads. Violence is always in the offing, whether it's the tough decision to shoot a beloved dog after it slaughters the family's chickens, or the slow percolation of revenge in the fairy tale-like "The Smell of the Deer." Attuned to the confusions of young boys, the deep loneliness and poverty of rural life, and the love of the land that makes it all bearable, Meyers renders midwest life mythic in its tragedies and privations."
--Booklist

A fine debut collection of 12 stories, all set in rural Minnesota, by western novelist Meyers (The River Warren, 1998). Meyers's selection of Cloten, Minnesota, as the focal point of his narrative influences the texture as well as the background of his tales: Cloten is little more than a collection of adjoining farms, a flat expanse of midwestern geography all but unknown to outsiders. Most of the lives it contains are as bleak as the landscape, if Meyers is any guide: ``Two-Speed,'' for example, is a funereal recollection of a mean-spirited old man who raised three equally bad-natured sons to grow up to become the terror of the town. ``A Strange Brown Fruit'' describes a local farmboy's coming of age, initiated by his contact with a wounded rabbit outside his parents' house. ``Wind Rower,'' from the separate perspectives of his neighbor, his mother, and a local fireman, portrays the freakish death of a farmer in his thresher. ``Glacierland'' is a very moving (and aptly named) account of a middle- aged farmer's attempt to come to terms with mortality in the wake of his wife's death. ``Abiding by Law'' provides an eerie diagram of Cloten's jagged connection to the outside world through the misunderstandings that arise between local inhabitants and German refugees whove settled in the area, and ``Bird Shadows'' offers a highly elegiac account (``The pull of land is like a black, black tide, a strong black moon over thick black water, water so thick one walks upon it and carries it forever upon one's heels, water like a glue'') of a boy who can't get away from the family farm however much he might want to. The title story describes a rather macabre form of ``chicken'' played out on rural roads by a young man during the summer following his father's death. A small gem: Gloomy to an extreme, but marvelously paced and told with great restraint and practiced skill.
--Kirkus Reviews

[for THE RIVER WARREN]
"An insightful inspection of local life and its discontents. . .  Borrowing from Our Town and Rashomon, Meyers uses his first novel to dissect Cloten and its citizens."
--The New York Times Book Review

"Entertaining and brilliantly written. . .   As stunning in its use of language as it is touching in its human revelations."
--The Denver Post

"Skillful and sensitive first novel. . .  Meyers achieves a simplicity of expression that conveys the arc of grief and acceptance."
--Publishers Weekly


Full Description
        After being named a PEN/West Finalist, two New York Times Notable Books of the Year, a Minnesota State Book Award, an NEA grant, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers, endorsements from Peter Matthiessen, Sam Shepard and Melanie Rae Thon, and lavish praise from The New York Times, Kirkus, Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, Kent Meyers has established a strong foundation.
        After four years of work, he has finished his second novel, THE WORK OF WOLVES.
        Like Kent’s previous books, THE WORK OF WOLVES is set in the Midwest, this time in a reservation-border town in South Dakota. It tells the story of an ensemble of characters, centering around a young man, Carson, who has an almost supernatural ability to communicate with horses. Carson is summoned by an abusive, powerful rancher to train his horses, and to teach his unhappy wife to ride. Carson does so, and despite himself, ends up falling for the wife, who is too happy to oblige. Their near-relationship sets off a violent chain of events, stirred on by the rancher’s jealousy.


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