Lillian Anderson is a strong-minded, backwoods-Minnesota girl, well-versed in the basics of survival. She can find air to breathe under a capsized boat, drive in a blizzard, or capture a wild duck. As part of a large struggling family, she tiptoes around her explosive father whose best days always come right after hes poached something and her neurotically optimistic mother whose bursts of vigor bring added chaos. Lillian barrels through adolescence with no illusions about her future, honing her clerical skills while working the nightshift as a salad girl in the airport kitchen. Just as shes on her feet and moving out, their house is literally sinking into the marsh. Stunningly honest, this story explores the fierce love that binds family together.
Gail Caldwell, Boston Globe
A granite-tough perspective on a wild and sometimes dangerous childhood. . . . One thinks of the flinty poetry of Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club, say, or the cocksure ease of Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. Hilariously wrought . . . without a whit of melodrama . . . equal parts humor and steel.
San Francisco Chronicle
Harfenist's integrated themes and evocative prose style elevate A Brief History of the Flood . . . giving it the satisfying, rounded feel of a good novel.
Santa Barbara News-Press - Lins Rolens
Funny and sad and somehow good natured, [A Brief History of the Flood] brings us in to the painful intimacies and troubled hearts of the Anderson family. . . . Jean Harfenist explores the interface between love and dysfunction through young Lillian whose voice will stick with you long after you turn the last page.
Emily Carter, Minneapolis Star Tribune
We root for Lillian because she’s an utterly convincing character, fiercely loyal and loving, [with] that rarest of gifts, a sane heart.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
[A] luminous [story] about growing up on a Minnesota lake. Harfenist has spun gold out of the daily lives of the Andersons and their four children in Acorn Lake.
Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
Wonderfully wry-melancholy . . . An auspicious and stirring debut.
Harfenist has endowed her narrator with an eminent toughness and scathing wit that make being with Lillian the baddest kind of fun.
Few authors [have] the grace and generosity of Harfenist, whose writing is almost dreamlike in its lyricism.
Charming. . . . Jean Harfenist shows a sure touch with characterization . . . deft and subtle. . . . [Harfenist's] narration is consistently absorbing and enlivened by flashes of description that are unexpected yet completely in character.
Publishers Weekly The author's direct narrative style, though sometimes abrupt, gives Lillian's story a bright, three-dimensional quality. Readers looking for a fast, entertaining summer read with multidimensional characters will be pleased with this effort.
An unexpected delight tales about an unlikely girl that linger well after the last page.
Rigorously beautiful without an ounce of dangerous pretension, a book I’ll put on my book club’s list and keep by the bed for dark nights when I need a language booster shot.
Reading Jean Harfenist’s [writing] is like finding a hot slot machine in a casino. One winner after another? In wild defiance of the odds? Who cares. Stay seated.
Recent Reader Reviews
Review (not rated)
by Susan Chiavelli
Looking for a summer Book Club pick? A Brief History of the Flood is that rare book that can't be put down, and one you'll want to read again and again. Like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, each chapter fits together with a satisfying click to reveal... Read More
With all the vision, grace and humanity of truly epic storytelling Russo extends even further his claims on the small-town, blue-collar heart of the country.
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