Prairie Fever

Prairie Fever

by Michael Parker

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

"Michael Parker has captured a time, place, and sisterhood so perfectly it hurts to turn the last page. A riveting, atmospheric dream of a novel.” --Dominic Smith, author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos 

Winner of the 2020 Thomas Wolfe Prize
Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction


The Stewart sisters, pragmatic Lorena and chimerical Elise, are bound together not only by their isolation on the prairie of early 1900s Oklahoma, but also by their deep emotional reliance on each other. They’re all they’ve got . . . until Gus McQueen arrives in Lone Wolf.

An inexperienced first-time teacher, Gus is challenged by the sisters’ wit and ingenuity. Then one impulsive decision and a cataclysmic blizzard trap Elise and her horse on the prairie—and the balance of everything is forever changed.

With honesty, poetic intensity, and the deadpan humor of Paulette Jiles and Charles Portis, this novel tells the story of characters tested as much by life on the prairie as they are by their own churning hearts.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

The novel is timeless and riveting in its strangeness . . . Parker’s gift for language transcends its 1900s setting, finds its peak expression in the sisters’ letters, as incisive and deadpan as Charles Portis’ True Grit.”
Vogue

“In the tradition of Katherine Anne Porter, Parker’s exceptional tale explores the power and strength of kinship on the harsh American frontier.”
Publishers Weekly

“In Prairie Fever, there is humor as well as danger, love as well as longing, and reconciliation as well as lingering spite. It’s splendid reading.”
Lone Star Literary Life

“Full of humor as well as anguish, suggesting that some bonds are strong enough to surpass even the most painful betrayal.”
Manhattan Book Review

“Parker's chimerical slipstream of a novel asks, Is it better to hew to that which is, or to see the world as you wish? Readers will surely be pulled deep into the strange and wild river of Elise's fanciful peregrinations.”
Booklist, starred review

“A frontier tale of sibling rivalry. . . Parker's novel isn't as much about sisterhood as love, as the two struggle to reckon with their estrangement head-on; some of the novel's most powerful sections are Elise's letters to Lorena, addressed not directly to sis but to the horse she rode during the blizzard . . . the easygoing, sometimes-smirking nature of the prose (True Grit comes to mind) makes the novel a pleasant ride.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Michael Parker has captured a time, place, and sisterhood so perfectly it hurts to turn the last page. Prairie Fever is a riveting, atmospheric dream of a novel.”
Dominic Smith, author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

“What a terrific book this is, wonderful and strange . . . a whole family acting out what can and can’t be forgotten, against the backdrops of prairie and range—characters so magnificently and sometimes comically stubborn I really couldn’t put the book down.  And what other novel has a character writing letters to a dead horse?  I was completely taken by this book.”
Joan Silber, author of Improvement

“Let me just say that Prairie Fever—concerning the lives of the Stewart sisters of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, in the early years of the twentieth century—is the most beautiful novel I have read in quite some time. Taking a cue from the irrepressibly inventive younger sister, Elise, I soon began reading it aloud to someone I love, and the novel more than rewards such a shared experience. The language is that graceful and original, the events and characters (horses included) that spellbinding and funny and moving; and always the melancholy beauty and mysterious power of the open prairie shine through. To borrow a phrase from Mr. McQueen—first encountered as a young teacher in a one-room schoolhouse—one comes away from the novel with a keener sense of 'how one ought to go about living one’s life.'”
Tom Drury, author of Pacific

Prairie Fever is an exceptionally charming novel about the wonders and troubles of love, land, and language. Witty and poignant, the novel is as elegantly constructed as a poem, and it features the best dialogue this side—or any side—of the Natchez Trace.  Yet another wonderful book from Michael Parker.”
Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special 

“That a love story of this strangeness and rightness can come out of the event of a girl nearly dead in a storm is a testament to the wonder that is Michael Parker’s talent. Not least, he’s invented a language, a formal way of speaking that is perfectly suited to his people and to this dreamy novel.”
Jane Hamilton, author of The Excellent Lombards

“Michael Parker will infect readers with a fever for his storytelling skills and his beguiling prose.”
Salisbury Post
 

Publishers Weekly

03/11/2019

Parker (The Watery Part of the World) transports readers to the 19th-century Oklahoma frontier in this lovely story about the bond between two sisters. Elise and Lorena are inseparable, sharing everything as they come of age with absent and distracted parents in a small town. Elise is flighty and clever, always daydreaming and coming up with adventure stories that take them away from Oklahoma. Sixteen-year-old Lorena is intelligent and practical, keeping her younger sister’s education on track. But Lorena is almost finished with school and dreaming of her future, making Elise nervous that she will be left behind. Then Gus McQueen becomes the teacher at their rural school, and the girls are torn apart when both fall in love with him. After Gus proposes to Elise, the sisters go their separate ways: Lorena to college in Wyoming, Elise to Texas with Gus. During the novel’s second half, much of the narrative is delivered through correspondence between the sisters, revealing their regrets, mutual love, and longing for a different future. It’s only with time and forgiveness, slowly won through their letters, that the sisters reaffirm the bonds of their family. In the tradition of Katherine Ann Porter, Parker’s exceptional tale explores the power and strength of kinship on the harsh American frontier. (May)

Kirkus Reviews

2019-02-28

One man prompts two sisters to take divergent paths out of early-1900s Oklahoma.

Winter, 1917: Fifteen-year-old Elise leaves her one-room schoolhouse during a blizzard and attempts to ride a horse to town to research a saloon shooting she's fixated on. She's rescued by her older sister, Lorena, who's used to Elise's peculiar flights of fancy. But the brief, ill-fated trek has extensive consequences: Elise loses half her toes and the tip of her nose, and both sisters are drawn closer to their teacher, Gus, who'll play a transforming role in both their lives. Parker's sixth novel (All I Have in This World, 2014, etc.) is a familiar hardscrabble frontier tale (the title illness claimed the sisters' two brothers), though it's enlivened by Elise's distracted, savantlike temperament, which allows her to memorize whole newspaper articles and predisposes her to impulsive horse rides and distracting reveries. ("Dreaming your dreamy dreams," as Lorena puts it.) Lorena, more practical and studious, escapes the homestead for college, with Gus seemingly interested in marrying her. But with Lorena away, Gus soon falls for Elise instead, and the sisters split, Elise for Texas, Lorena for Wyoming. Moving the narrative through 1940, Parker's novel isn't as much about sisterhood as love, as the two struggle to reckon with their estrangement head-on; some of the novel's most powerful sections are Elise's letters to Lorena, addressed not directly to sis but to the horse she rode during the blizzard. The two women's reconciliation is wan compared to the peculiarities that Parker introduces in the narrative, but the easygoing, sometimes-smirking nature of the prose (True Grit comes to mind) makes the novel a pleasant ride overall.

A frontier tale of sibling rivalry that could use more of its entertainingly otherworldly touches.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781643750453
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 06/23/2020
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 778,764
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Customer Reviews