Summary and book reviews of The Driest Season by Meghan Kenny

The Driest Season

by Meghan Kenny

The Driest Season by Meghan Kenny X
The Driest Season by Meghan Kenny
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Feb 2018, 192 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Dean Muscat
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Book Summary

With wisdom and grit, Kenny has fashioned a deeply affecting story of a young woman discovering loss, heartache, and - finally - hope.

As her Wisconsin community endures a long season of drought and feels the shockwaves of World War II, fifteen-year-old Cielle endures a more personal calamity: the unexpected death of her father. On a balmy summer afternoon, she finds him hanging in the barn - the start of a dark secret that threatens her family's livelihood. A war rages elsewhere, while in the deceptive calm of the American heartland, Cielle's family contends with a new reality and fights not to be undone.

A stunning debut, The Driest Season creates a moving portrait of Cielle's struggle to make sense of her father's time on earth, and of her own.

Chapter One

IN THAT DRIEST SEASON, Cielle's father hanged himself in the barn. A rope tied to a beam above stacked bales of hay, a wheelbarrow, rusted cans. Cielle found him. Home from summer school in the middle of July, and her legs couldn't move beneath her. She looked and didn't look. Her father hung still, bloated and blue. She thought of chickens, pigs, and hides of cows tied up and heavy-looking on ropes and hooks at the butcher's.

Cielle wasn't a child, nearly sixteen. She walked closer and touched his boot. Jesus. Sweet Jesus. She knelt before her father and thought for a moment he could fall. Light came in from rafter windows and cut long square shadows on wood plank walls. Then light shifted to dark from what she knew to be passing clouds. The barn was cool and damp. Sharp pebbles dug at her knees. She didn't look at his face again, or his hands, or all that was him outside of his clothing. Because it wasn't him right there, but something...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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.   (Reviewed by Dean Muscat).

Full Review (719 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The story arrives at its logical conclusion mostly by refusing to detour into more complicated terrain.

Booklist
Quiet and moving ... With a light touch, Kelly tells an impactful story of everyday lives in trying circumstances.

Library Journal
Expanding an award-winning short story, debut novelist Kenny (Love Is No Small Thing: Stories) offers a moving tale of family secrets and heartache that brings to life a teenage girl's struggle for meaning and hope after devastating loss. A finely crafted novel deserving wide attention

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. [An] impressive debut novel…Kenny's thoughtful, finely crafted work is an eloquent reminder that the breadth of a world matters less than the depth of a character.

Author Blurb Elliott Holt, author of You Are One of Them
An elegant coming-of-age story that brings real heart to the American heartland. The book may be set during World War II, but the questions it asks - about love, loyalty, and the meaning of life - are timeless ones.

Author Blurb Josh Weil, author of The Age of Perpetual Light
The Driest Season settled over me like weather: sweeping in, wholly immersive, charged with coming change ... A lingering power that, long after the last page of this moving story, follows me too.

Author Blurb Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and No One Is Here Except All of Us
A searing debut. Meghan Kenny writes an almost unbearable moment in a young woman's life with precision and tenderness, ache and hope. I was grateful for each page.

Author Blurb Robert Olmstead, author of Coal Black Horse
The words are spare, beautiful, poetic, even prayerful. They hold you inside your chest where lies your heart and the place you breathe. A brilliant debut.

Author Blurb Lin Enger, author of The High Divide
Meghan Kenny's rural Wisconsin, circa World War II, is rendered with love and precision - its weather, landscapes, and people evoked in prose that echoes recent masters of the American heartland, David Rhodes and Marilynne Robinson.

Author Blurb Chris Offutt, author of My Father, the Pornographer
Set in a rural community during the 1940s, this novel reminds us that human frailty, loyalty, and the yearning to understand life never goes away. The past was not better or safer. It's where we all once were young.

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Beyond the Book

The Rise Of Counseling in America (1900s-1940s)

Much of The Driest Season revolves around the suicide of Mr. Jacobson and the effect it has on his youngest daughter—and main protagonist—Cielle. As Cielle tries to better understand the reasons why her father took his own life, she discovers that he was secretly seeking help for depression through a counselor, a fact he kept hidden even from his wife because "[h]e was embarrassed he couldn't help himself."

In the 1940s, counseling was only just gaining popularity among everyday Americans, and its benefits in helping all sorts of mental and emotional troubles were still a recent discovery. In fact, until the 1910s, counseling's primary focus was simply to offer guidance to students choosing careers and vocations. While this ...

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