The Fall of Alice K.

The Fall of Alice K.

by Jim Heynen
     
 

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Praise for The Fall of Alice K.

“Wise, wryly humorous, and aching with tenderness for his characters, Jim Heynen has here gifted readers with his finest and most poignant book.”
—Ron Hansen, author of A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion and She Loves Me Not

“How wonderful to meet someone as bright, courageous, complex,

Overview

Praise for The Fall of Alice K.

“Wise, wryly humorous, and aching with tenderness for his characters, Jim Heynen has here gifted readers with his finest and most poignant book.”
—Ron Hansen, author of A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion and She Loves Me Not

“How wonderful to meet someone as bright, courageous, complex, and real as Alice. This is a terrific novel, at turns funny, heartbreaking, touching, and poetic—a compelling read that just keeps getting better and better. I loved this book.”
—Shannon Olson, author of Welcome to My Planet and Children of God Go Bowling

“The eponymous heroine of Jim Heynen’s The Fall of Alice K. is a wonderful creation—smart, courageous, capable, and determined to go her own way. She’s also a true original and ready to take her place in the pantheon of literary teenagers.”
—Larry Watson, author of Montana 1948 and American Boy

“If only there were more unruly girls like Alice K., unwilling to submit to dogma or tradition—the world would be a better place.”
—Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land and A Thousand Lives

“Heynen captures perfectly that time of life when we struggle to define ourselves against the backdrop of our family, our community, our religion, and above all, the dreams we have for ourselves. Alice is a character I won’t soon forget. Hers is a deeply moving story shaped by an expert and generous hand.”
—Lee Martin, author of The Bright Forever and Break the Skin

“Long a true master of the very short story, Jim Heynen shows himself wonderfully adept in The Fall of Alice K. For those who’ve known the heartland farm country Jim has written from, this new book contains familiar terrain but deepens and varies it movingly. Those who haven’t met his work before are in for a readerly treat and many surprises. He writes of the simplicity of the complex, and the complexity of the simple better than anyone I know.”
—Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Heynen’s uneven first novel (after several short fiction collections, including The One-Room Schoolhouse), rising high school senior Alice Krayenbraak has her future mapped out: she’ll take a hiatus from sports, concentrating instead on academics, all with an eye toward college—some place sophisticated and far away from the hog manure and endless chores that characterize life on her family’s Iowa farm. But the year is 1999, and falling hog prices, combined with inclement weather and fears of Y2K, portend the downfall of the struggling farm. When the Hmong Vang family moves to town, Alice is attracted to bad boy Nickson. Dutch heritage and Calvinist doctrine dominate life in their community, and as Alice’s relationship with Nickson intensifies, she struggles with whether—in her pastor’s words—to be a restless Seeker or a satisfied Dweller. This simple dichotomy—between a desire for a different life and contentment with one’s lot—characterizes much of the novel. Although Heynen’s portrayal of young women and their relationships leaves much to be desired, his depictions of the Midwest’s evolving social and financial landscape ring true. '(Sept.)
Ellen Akins
Alice's navigation of the rough seas of first love, oncoming adulthood and a family crisis might be an effective metaphor for what the larger community is facing at the turn of the millennium — but it doesn't read like a metaphor. It is, in keeping with Heynen's considerable gifts, painstakingly particular, immediate and moving.
Every instant of Alice's intimate life and longing takes place within the sometimes stultifying, sometimes liberating framework of farm life, church and school. And every instant counts. As real and poignant as Alice's romance is, the plight of the family farm is intrinsic to her story, each caress and twist of fate measured against the care and feeding of cows and pigs whose welfare orders her days.
Hers is a finely focused, perfectly calibrated story of finding a balance between the forces that govern society, settling and striving, putting down roots and reaching for the light.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune (Sept. 1, 2012)
Mary Ann Grossmann
Jim Heynen, known for his short-story collections featuring farm boys, including "The One-Room Schoolhouse," gives us a complex female protagonist in his first adult novel.
"The Fall of Alice K." can be taken two ways as a title. It can mean "fall" as in autumn, because the story takes place from September to December in 1999, when everyone is talking about the turn of the millennium and Y2K. Or it can mean "fall" as in a smart young woman goes through a searing experience that changes her and her future.

...Heynen's prose is especially poignant when he's writing about failing farms: "... falling off the landscape one broken piece at a time, the old equipment rusting in the grove, the unterraced hillsides giving way to deeper gullies every year, the sway-backed sheds, the leaning mailbox ... slow death, two decades for shingles to wear out, another decade for barn ribs to show, then years of desertion before vandals smashed all the windows."
There is a darkness at the center of this book, which begins with Alice hearing gunshots as a neighbor kills 80 hogs to protest falling prices. It ends with Alice looking to a future that will leave readers debating whether this smart young woman deserved this "fall."
—St. Paul Pioneer Press (Sept. 17, 2012)
Amy Goetzman
(The) tension between here and out there, and us and them forms the uncomfortable backdrop for Heynen?s moving and sensitively written first novel, "The Fall of Alice K.," which is set in northwestern Iowa in 1999. His heroine, Alice, lives in a simple farming community fraught with enormously complex challenges. She must navigate unusual religious tensions, pre-Y2K paranoia, and the arrival of immigrants in the area, which all impact her approach to the more typical teen issues of school, farm chores, love and uncertain futures. Most poignantly, Heynen describes the death of the family farm. This may be an old topic in regional literature, but it's still very much a reality in rural communities.
—MinnPost (Sept. 18, 2012)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Fall of Alice K.

"Meeting Alice Krayenbraak takes readers back to their own high school days — but don’t mistake The Fall of Alice K. for a coming-of-age novel. Minnesota writer Jim Heynen’s lovely tale of the small and not-so-small minds of the Midwest in 1999 is much more."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"What Heynen does with describing the Dutch community and the Iowa landscape harkens to writers like Willa Cather and Annie Proulx."
— Shelly Walston, Wichita Eagle

"Alice's navigation of the rough seas of first love, oncoming adulthood and a familycrisis might be an effective metaphor for what the larger community is facing at the turn of the millennium— but it doesn't read like a metaphor. It is, in keeping with Heynen's considerable gifts, painstakingly particular, immediate and moving...a finely focused, perfectly calibrated story of finding a balance between the forces that govern society, settling and striving, putting down roots and reaching for the light."
— Ellen Akins, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Heynen's gorgeous sense of place is in every detail....Heynen's prose is especially poignant when he's writing about failing farms....There is a darkness at the center of this book, which begins with Alice hearing gunshots as a neighbor kills 80 hogs to protest falling prices. It ends with Alice looking to a future that will leave readers debating whether this smart young woman deserved this 'fall.'"
— Mary Ann Grossman, St. Paul Pioneer Press

"The Fall of Alice K. follows a 17-year-old girl as she negotiates the widening cracks of her Iowa childhood: a failing farm, a superstitious mother, homogeneity broken by Hmong immigrants. To pry prophetic revelation from her story, Heynen leans on his own strict Protestant upbringing, plus plenty of well-chosen words."
Minnesota Monthly

“Seventeen-year-old Alice Krayenbraak, the eponymous heroine of Jim Heynen’s The Fall of Alice K., is a wonderful creation—smart, courageous, capable, and determined to go her own way. She’s also a true original and ready to take her place in the pantheon of literary teenagers.”
— Larry Watson, bestselling author of Montana, 1948 and American Boy

"If only there were more unruly girls like Alice K., unwilling to submit to dogma or tradition — the world would be a better place."
— Julia Scheeres, the New York Times bestselling author of Jesus Land

“I love the care that Jim Heynen takes with the world of his novel, The Fall of Alice K.—the  world on the verge of a new millennium in Dutch Center, Iowa. Seventeen-year-old, Alice Krayenbraak, is a girl with a promising future until, partly through her own choices and partly through the choices of others, her life, like the failing family farm, teeters on the edge of ruin. Jim Heynen captures perfectly that time of life when we struggle to define ourselves against the backdrop of our family, our community, our religion, and above all the dreams we have for ourselves. Alice is a character I won’t soon forget. Hers is a deeply moving story shaped by an expert and generous hand.”
— Lee Martin, author of The Bright Forever and Break the Skin

"I’ve been a fan of Jim Heynen’s small stories about the boys for years. How wonderful to meet one of the girls on the farm, and someone as bright, courageous, complex and real as Alice. Jim Heynen’s depictions of small town Midwestern life are spot-on, and Alice is a character to root for. This is a terrific novel, at turns funny, heartbreaking, touching and poetic — a compelling read that just keeps getting better and better. I loved this book."
— Shannon Olson, author of Welcome to My Planet and Children of God Go Bowling

"Wise, wryly humorous, and aching with tenderness for his characters, Jim Heynen has here gifted readers with his finest and most poignant book, a masterpiece of rural fiction."
— Ron Hansen, author of A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion and She Loves Me Not

"Long a true master of the very short story, from The Man Who Kept Cigars in His Cap on through The One-Room Schoolhouse, Jim Heynen shows himself wonderfully adept in his lovely first novel, The Fall of Alice K. For those who've known the heartland farm country Jim has written from, this new book contains familiar terrain but deepens and varies it, movingly (and it is a story of a changed Midwest). For those who haven't met his work before, you are in for a readerly treat and many surprises. He writes of the simplicity of the complex, and the complexity of the simple better than anyone I know, Midwest and otherwise."
— Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA

"Heynen’s poetic language vividly depicts the grinding strain of life on a struggling farm and the strict moral code of the Protestant farming community. Heynen finely portrays the complicated character of Alice, a girl at the brink of adulthood with a promising future but naively willing to put it all at risk for the recklessness of first love."
— Eve Gaus, Booklist

Praise for Jim Heynen

“He earns the right to claim belief for assertion, by having kept so firm a hold on his roots in the specifics of a country boyhood deeply felt and sharply remembered. The reality continues to connect other times and places at the source of continuing perceptiveness.”
Denise Levertov

“Jim Heynen can be funny, or serious, or both at once; and he appeals to young and old. They stand in line like Oliver Twist after his readings, to catch a little more. And that porridge is good, nourishing, delicious. It sticks to our shaking ribs."
William Stafford

“He is a storyteller for the ages. From the ages. For more than 20 years, this backwoods poet has been telling of life on the American farm with a half-smile and a raised eyebrow. His is the archetypal voice: sage, preacher, scribe, storyteller, wit. . . . Like Wendell Berry and Kent Haruf, who have staked rural America as their turf in long fiction, Heynen is the Pied Piper of farm life in short fiction."
Milwaukee Journal

Praise for The Boys’ House

“Heynen's book is a masterful peephole into the young male psyche and the family farm culture.”
Minnesota Monthly

“Heynen has the talent of conveying a great deal in only a few words.”
Bloomsbury Review

“One usually must look back to writers like Willa Cather and Wallace Stegner to find compelling portrayals of rural life. Happily, Minnesota writer Jim Heynen continues this tradition.
Minneapolis Star Tribune

School Library Journal
Gr 11 Up—In Alice's Dutch Calvinist community in Iowa, many family farms are collapsing and being displaced by corporate agribusiness conglomerates. A high school senior, Alice is an excellent student who's looking forward to college. Yet her family's farm is failing; she has a troubled relationship with her emotionally disturbed mother, who is obsessed with the oncoming Y2K apocalypse; and her parents are making plans to send her special-needs sister away. Alice defies her family by befriending and becoming romantically involved with Nickson Vang, a Hmong immigrant who has recently moved to the area. A large part of the novel depicts Alice's thoughts and perceptions; rather than being driven by action and dialogue, it is an introspective, contemplative exploration of the impact of socioeconomic and political change; cultures in conflict; and the concepts of faith, sin, and guilt. The narrative is that of an adult looking back at adolescence, viewing it through the hindsight of adult sensibilities. Heynen's novel provides a unique glimpse into a way of life that has rarely been explored in literature. However, although the narrative revolves around a teen protagonist, this title will probably be of very limited interest to teens and would have better circulation in adult collections.—Francesca Burgess, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781571310897
Publisher:
Milkweed Editions
Publication date:
09/11/2012
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
947,796
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.56(h) x 1.14(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

A widely published author, Jim Heynen is perhaps best known for his collections of short prose featuring young farm boys: The One Room Schoolhouse (Knopf, 1993; Vintage, 1994), The Boys’ House (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2001), You Know What is Right (North Point Press, 1985), and The Man Who Kept Cigars in His Cap (Graywolf, 1979). His most recent collection of poems is titled Standing Naked: New and Selected Poems (Confluence Press, 2001). He has written two young adult novels, Cosmos Coyote and William the Nice (Henry Holt, 2000; Harper-Collins, 2001) as well as Being Youngest (Henry Holt, 1997), and one major book of nonfiction, One Hundred Over 100 (Fulcrum, 1990), which featured one hundred American centenarians. He has frequently been featured on National Public Radio reading his own stories and has been awarded National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in both poetry and fiction. Jim Heynen lives in St. Paul with his wife Sally Williams, a former books editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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