Excerpt from Garner by Kirstin Allio, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Kirstin Allio

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    Sep 2005, 232 pages

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The Ordinances said that blue skies were customary but work could be done as well when skies were gray. Trees were meant to be leafed and green but in Garner there were nine months out of the year when they were bare.

The summer boarders were mostly young men who felt very free to make advances. Garner folk hold their tongues, and, as if a June thunder, wait for insult to pass over. they are approved in advance by the planning board, wrote Heald the postman.

Every house must be situated on at least one-half acre of land and centrally, so that it would not be too close to the road. A proper plot with a proper house and preferably a fence around it is required.

The town of Garner is shaped like a sail.


A sail-shaped shroud brought from some attic. A girl so light—one man alone could carry her to her father.

There shall be no living in old railroad cars or other discarded motor vehicles.

Scrap shacks and bearded men living as hermits—you may be ejected from your farm for back taxes.

And yet the tax collector or the selectmen or the secretary or the town planner or the surveyor or the librarian shall not tell you when to pay your taxes. There is no notice you receive by mail. It is like intuition or the weather. Scores of people owe back taxes.

Willard Heald himself had never cared for hunting, but hunters, he granted, must be allowed to hunt in apple orchards in all seasons and negro apple pickers must be exempt from the stares that otherwise accumulate around such a person and eventually drive him to a larger and more southerly city.

The Revolutionaries left us their motto. Live Free or Die for the men and women of New Hampshire.

A dog on a leash belongs to a sissy. If a woman cries when her husband is signaled off the road for misdemeanor, the officer is not allowed to write out a ticket.

Massachusetts is a different country. Vermont is for deviants. The state of Maine warrants a cold respect. The rest of America is of no real consideration.


White Pine should be the State Tree. Mountain Laurel the state flower. The lady's slipper is a rare woodland flower that grows alone. A woman who can make jam from wild strawberries will never be a spinster.

The best wives must go to the selectmen and volunteer firemen. All other men will get the second pick.


Religion is at once social and silent.


A true lithium spring is one in which the lithium occurs naturally in the spring water.


Women shall travel in pairs until they are married. Women can be anything they want as long as they are wives. Men can be anything they want as long as they can fix their own machines. The best man is a kind of gentleman mechanic.

A good hand with animals must be well regarded.

Not every man is to be expected to know how to shear his sheep. The sheep-shearer must be kept in business.

The Ordinances are such that protect the locals of this town and preserve its integrity as the only inland sail-shaped town in America.

Willard Heald gazed past his wife into the dark that had surprised them both: this new autumn dusk like homemade felt that muted them so early.


For some of our native folk, to meet the modern age was a difficult task. It was I who came upon young Frances, face up in Blood Brook and floating. I left her there and went for her father.

From Garner by Kirstin Allio, pages 11-25.  Copyright Kirstin Allio 2005.  All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher, Coffee House Press.

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