Twisted Tree [NOOK Book]

Overview

Hayley Jo Zimmerman is gone. Taken. And the people of small-town Twisted Tree must come to terms with this terrible event—their loss, their place in it, and the secrets they all carry.

In this brilliantly written novel, one girl’s story unfolds through the stories of those who knew her. Among them, a supermarket clerk recalls an encounter with a disturbingly thin Hayley Jo. An ex-priest remembers baptizing Hayley Jo and seeing her with her ...
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Twisted Tree

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Overview

Hayley Jo Zimmerman is gone. Taken. And the people of small-town Twisted Tree must come to terms with this terrible event—their loss, their place in it, and the secrets they all carry.

In this brilliantly written novel, one girl’s story unfolds through the stories of those who knew her. Among them, a supermarket clerk recalls an encounter with a disturbingly thin Hayley Jo. An ex-priest remembers baptizing Hayley Jo and seeing her with her best friend, Laura, whose mother the priest once loved. And Laura berates herself for all the running they did, how it fed her friend’s addiction, and how there were so many secrets she didn’t see. And so, Hayley Jo’s absence recasts the lives of others and connects them, her death rooting itself into the community in astonishingly violent and tender ways.

Solidly in the company of Aryn Kyle, Kent Haruf, and Peter Matthiessen, Kent Meyers is one of the best contemporary writers on the American West. Here he also takes us into the complexity of community regardless of landscape, and offers a tribute to the powerful effect one person's life can have on everyone she knew.
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Editorial Reviews

Don Waters
Meyers creates a stunning narrative…quilting together an intricate patchwork from confessions, remembrances and secrets. Each chapter, a completely self-contained account, deepens our understanding of other community members while touching upon the mysterious circumstances of Hayjay's disappearance. What's most wonderful is Meyers's casting. There's not one flat, uninteresting character in the bunch.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
In his beautiful and unsettling new novel, Meyers (The Work of Wolves) examines the effects of a murder on the residents of a small South Dakota town. In an opening sequence that is so disturbing it's difficult to read, teen Hayley Jo Zimmerman is stalked and abducted by a serial killer. The rest of the novel uses the rippling consequences of Hayley Jo's murder to explore the smaller rural tragedies in Twisted Tree, S.D.: Elise, a forlorn grocery clerk, judges everyone by their purchases and hides the secret terrors of her past as a missionary; Sophie Lawrence cares for her invalid stepfather while losing her sanity; Angela Morrison learns to accept the harsh realities of being a rancher's wife; Stanley, Haley Jo's father, channels his grief into a desperate need to connect with a stranger. The novel is brimming with arresting descriptions, and the western setting is employed to surprising effect, as in a sequence contrasting the removal of an invasive salt cedar bush with a father's awareness of his son's first crush. Meyers's small masterpiece deserves comparison to the work of Raymond Carver, Joy Williams and Peter Matthiessen. (Sept.)
Library Journal
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.—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Kirkus Reviews
Dark portrait of a High Plains community. Serial killer traps latest victim! There's no resisting the power of the opening chapter, told from the viewpoint of the so-called I-90 killer. He's been visiting pro-Ana Web sites to target anorexic young women. Now he's closing in on Hayley Jo Zimmerman, a sales clerk in Rapid City, S.D., originally from the small town of Twisted Tree. Posing on the site as an older woman, he's learned all Hayley Jo's secrets. They meet face-to-face and he lures her into his Continental before she realizes his identity. Readers hoping for more white-knuckle suspense will be disappointed, for Meyers (The Work of Wolves, 2004, etc.) then shifts gears to begin a ruminative study of Twisted Tree residents, many of whom had contact with Hayley Jo. The author spins a web of relationships, scatters what-ifs and sounds the themes of guilt and innocence. This is a landscape soaked in blood. The first white settler, Old Joe Valen, forced Native Americans off their land, then shot dead one of their number fleeing Wounded Knee. We meet their descendants. Eddie Little Feather, drunk in the road, will be decapitated by a tractor trailer. The last of the Valens, Shane, is a creepy poacher who sleeps among animals. Meyers' prose is strikingly physical, sometimes thrillingly so: driving on the highway, Angela Morrison realizes there's a rattlesnake nestling at her feet. But occasionally he wanders into gothic territory; there are entirely too many rattlers attending the gruesome deaths of Shane and his mother. Throughout, the bell tolls for Hayley Jo. What if friends had intervened over her anorexia? The questions linger as we delve into other lives. Sometimes connections seemforced, yet Meyers brings everything into alignment for his epilogue, in which a group of Native Americans conduct an offbeat, good-humored exorcism involving the killer's Continental. Terrific opening, terrific close, but a bumpy ride in between.
From the Publisher
"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

"In his beautiful and unsettling new novel, Meyers (The Work of Wolves) examines the effects of a murder on the residents of a small South Dakota town. In an opening sequence that is so disturbing it's difficult to read, teen Hayley Jo Zimmerman is stalked and abducted by a serial killer. The rest of the novel uses the rippling consequences of Hayley Jo's murder to explore the smaller rural tragedies in Twisted Tree, S.D.: Elise, a forlorn grocery clerk, judges everyone by their purchases and hides the secret terrors of her past as a missionary; Sophie Lawrence cares for her invalid stepfather while losing her sanity; Angela Morrison learns to accept the harsh realities of being a rancher's wife; Stanley, Haley Jo's father, channels his grief into a desperate need to connect with a stranger. The novel is brimming with arresting descriptions, and the western setting is employed to surprising effect, as in a sequence contrasting the removal of an invasive salt cedar bush with a father's awareness of his son's first crush. Meyers's small masterpiece deserves comparison to the work of Raymond Carver, Joy Williams and Peter Matthiessen. (Sept.)"—Publishers Weekly

The Barnes & Noble Review
Kent Meyers achieved regional celebrity with The Witness of Combines (1998), a collection of essays about growing up in the rural Midwest. With his novel The Work of Wolves (2004), set in South Dakota, he won some national acclaim. In this novel, Twisted Tree, Meyers returns to depict South Dakotans in and around the tiny fictional town of the same name. The novel revolves around Hayley Jo Zimmerman, a teenage girl kidnapped by the I-90 Killer. Despite this sensationalistic newspaper-like epithet, Twisted Tree is hardly a thriller. Rather it is a sociological portrait, brilliant at times, of the killer, the residents of Twisted Tree, a Colorado truck driver, and others who have encountered Hayley Jo. Told from several points of view, the story structure is reminiscent of the multiple viewpoints in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, often revealing character through stream of consciousness.

The kidnapper, Alexander Stouton, is a fat, demonic psychopath. Elise, the middle-aged grocery checker, who at 16 was a lay missionary in South America, tells us something of Hayley Jo. "She had an air of reverence and distance. I saw myself when I was her age -- that sense of martyrdom and purity, of watching others' needs." We meet the town's eclectic collection: Sophie, who has returned, after a ten-year absence, to help her mother after her mother's husband has a stroke; Eddie Little Feather, a comical drunk, eventually run over by a truck; the grieving Zimmerman parents; Hayley's friend Laura; a maniac poacher who is never caught in the act; and a sinful former priest. These characters share a commonality of voice and action with those in Annie Proulx's trilogy of Wyoming Stories. But the creations in this gripping novel transcend Proulx's often absurd caricatures, as Meyers writes with a Faulknerian sympathy for his characters that is frequently nonexistent in Proulx. Meyers's westerners would not be out of place in Yoknapatawpha County. --Joseph Peschel

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547400808
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/24/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 616,789
  • File size: 217 KB

Meet the Author

KENT MEYERS is the author of The Work of Wolves, Light in the Crossing, The River Warren, and The Witness of Combines. He is a recipient of an ALA Alex Award, two Minnesota Book Awards, and a Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association Award. His work has been included in the New York Times list of Notable Books and is published in a wide array of prestigious magazines.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 14 of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Kent Meyers does not fail

    I bought this book because the cover got me when I was browzing. The anguished horse at the wire made me want to read the book without knowing anything about it.

    It did not fail. This book was fascinating -- I disocvered the events in the rear mirror, through the ruminations of characters about the events, while also revealing their complicated lives in this Dakota town, with its distances, yearnings for the bright lights, and acceptance of the inevitable, with humor the only protection.

    The book held me and I had to stay up all night reading it. Then I read Work of Wolves, an earlier Meyers book, and thought it wonderful. Now I have to find Combine somewhere (not available through B&N).

    Anyway, if you like Jim Harrison, you will like Kent Meyers. They have the same long view.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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