cover image Pale Harvest

Pale Harvest

Braden Hepner. Torrey House (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (360p) ISBN 978-1-937226-39-8

Hepner’s stunning debut novel is an homage to the barren landscape of the American West. Ever since he was a small boy sitting on his grandfather’s lap in the tractor, Jack Selvedge has toiled on the land in Juniper Scrag. Now, at the age of 20, his life revolves around the same struggling dairy farm in his Utah hometown, which is now a shell of its former self. It is unforgiving work, the cows need constant attention, and there is never enough money to replace the worn-out equipment. Though “his blood cried for the fieldwork he did,” Jack feels the need for something more. When Rebekah Rainsford returns to town after a long absence, she restores Jack’s lease on life. He is drawn to her beauty; she inspires him to consider the future as something he can control. From the beginning, however, their relationship is complicated by a turbulent past about which she is unwilling to speak. As Jack’s feelings intensify, a series of tragedies occur in the vortex of their desire, requiring the couple to consider a future vastly different from what they had imagined. Hepner’s gorgeous prose evokes the austerity and lonely beauty of the landscape. The novel is a meditation on the nature of hope and self-determination, a sweeping elegy to a dying town and to the bond between blood and earth. (Sept.)