cover image Dixon, Descending

Dixon, Descending

Karen Outen. Dutton, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-47345-0

Outen shines in her debut about two brothers and their consequential climb on Mount Everest. Charter school psychologist Dixon Bryant sets a goal with his older brother, Nate: to be the first Black American men to summit the mountain. It sounds like a grand adventure, but during their April 2011 stay at base camp, where they wait for clear weather, they both wonder if they’ve underestimated the danger. After a foreboding scene involving an avalanche, Outen skips ahead to the fall of that year, with Dixon back at work. His colleagues’ subdued fanfare about his achievement implies that all did not go well on the mountain. Dixon’s return to the school proves short-lived, and as he retreats into isolation, Outen metes out the story of his and Nate’s ill-fated climb. Dixon has lost all but two of his toes, and he wears a prosthesis molded in “white man’s nude,” prompting him to wryly wonder if Black men aren’t “expected to lose toes... or just not to replace them.” As the reader gets oriented as to what happened to Nate, Outen credibly portrays the uncanny sensations of Dixon’s emotional and physical recovery (“He found himself in an afterlife he could not quite make out”). This one hits hard. Agent: Alexa Stark, Writers House. (Feb.)