BookBrowse Reviews The Driest Season by Meghan Kenny

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Driest Season

by Meghan Kenny

The Driest Season by Meghan Kenny X
The Driest Season by Meghan Kenny
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Feb 2018, 192 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Dean Muscat
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Set on the agricultural plains of Boaz, Wisconsin during an unrelenting summer drought, The Driest Season follows a girl on the cusp of womanhood in the throes of existential angst.

On a summer afternoon in 1943, an almost sixteen-year-old Cielle Jacobson walks into the family barn to find that her father has hung himself from the ceiling beam. The suicide is unexpected, and Cielle cannot fully comprehend what drove her father to end his life so suddenly. While it is true he suffered from episodic debilitating migraines, he by and large seemed to be a content, loving family man. Later that day, Cielle discovers her mother has covered up the suicide to make it look as if it were not anything more suspicious than an unfortunate farming accident. The Jacobsons lease the farm from a local landlord, and the law stipulates that in events where a man dies by his own hand, he contractually forgoes his land rights. Now the Jacobson women must keep the true cause of death a secret in order to save the farm, their home, and their livelihood. Meanwhile a war rages on in Europe. And while the calm American heartland remains relatively unaffected, more and more young men are enlisting in the army and leaving Boaz. Cielle and her peers are aware that many of these boys will probably return home, at best, with severe mental and physical injuries, and, at worst, in boxes.

Set against this backdrop of familial bereavement and a world in turmoil, The Driest Season turns the focus inwards, and explores how a contemplative teenage girl is forced to make sense of life and her place in the universe. As such, this novella really is a balancing act for author Meghan Kenny. Life—as life always does—goes on, but internally Cielle needs time to pause, reflect, heal. For the most part Kenny succeeds in keeping equilibrium between the stop-and-gos of these internal and external realities, but not without some wavering and faltering. And while one might assume it would be the moments that wallow in introspection that would stall momentum and make for occasionally tedious reading, it is the inverse that is actually true.

For a relatively short book, Kenny sure throws in a lot of events. First there's the suicide, which is followed a few days later by a tornado that destroys the barn as if "the world needed to wipe out this place where something bad happened." There's a horse riding accident and an unread suicide note. The coroner is naturally suspicious of the cause of Mr Jacobson's death and in two minds whether to report foul play to the landlord Mr Olsen. Then there are intermittent episodes of teenage attractions, jealousies and first kisses, which at times verge on soap opera-y melodrama.

While this constant series of events keeps the narrative chugging along steadily enough, few of the unfolding incidents ever feel particularly novel or greatly interesting. However, as we see things entirely from Cielle's point of view, it is at times difficult to tell whether the matter-of-factness of how some episodes are conveyed is meant to reflect a sense of detachment due to her grief or not.

Instead it is through Cielle's existential musings that the writing really comes to life. During solitary walks and night-time swims in a nearby lake, she remembers happy, intimate moments between her younger self and her father. Looking up at the glittering canvas of the star-lit sky she initially sees herself as "a small insignificant dot swirling around the enormous universe." But as the days pass by, her heartbreak heals and the ennui begins to lift. Life takes on more profound meaning in light of the grand scheme of things: "The universe was in constant motion. Her own molecules and atoms were vibrating and colliding. The human heart pumped blood throughout the body. Continents drifted across the surface of the planet, and the earth spun day and night." Kenny's writing feels truly inspired in these bursts of majestic revelation that shine through the prosaic drama.

While The Driest Season is not perfect, it manages to be an affecting novel because of how it interprets the grieving process through prose and finds hope and goodness in a world that can all too often appear exhaustingly bleak. Time may not erase, but it does heal. The dry season is just that, a season that will eventually pass. And as Cielle comes to realize, despite all the sorrow: "We're alive [...] and it's a miraculous thing."

Reviewed by Dean Muscat

This review is from the The Driest Season. It first ran in the March 7, 2018 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Big Vape
    Big Vape
    by Jamie Ducharme
    In Big Vape, TIME reporter Jamie Ducharme studies the short but inflammatory history of Juul. Her ...
  • Book Jacket: Love and Fury
    Love and Fury
    by Samantha Silva
    Mary Wollstonecraft is best known for being an early advocate for women's rights and the mother of ...
  • Book Jacket: Walking on Cowrie Shells
    Walking on Cowrie Shells
    by Nana Nkweti
    The stories in Nana Nkweti's dexterous debut collection examine the raw alienation of being ...
  • Book Jacket: The Personal Librarian
    The Personal Librarian
    by Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray
    The Personal Librarian drew a robust positive response from our First Impressions reviewers, ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The War Nurse
by Tracey Enerson Wood
A sweeping novel by an international bestselling author based on a true World War I story.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Temple House Vanishing
    by Rachel Donohue

    A modern gothic page-turner set in a Victorian mansion in Ireland.

  • Book Jacket

    Lady Sunshine
    by Amy Mason Doan

    One iconic family. One summer of secrets. The dazzling spirit of 1970s California.

Win This Book!
Win Gordo

Gordo by Jaime Cortez

"Dark and hilarious ... singular and soaring ... Hands down, top debut of 2021."—Literary Hub

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

N Say N

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.