by Kent Meyers

Publisher:  University of Minnesota Press

Pub Date:  Fall 1999

Format:   Trade Paperback

Brief Description
The extraordinarily successful memoir of midwestern farm life, the winner of the 1998 Minnesota State Book Award and a Finalist in the PEN/West awards.

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


"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

"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)

"...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."

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

"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

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