By Kent Meyers
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780151013890, 304pp.)
Publication Date: September 2009
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Hayley Jo Zimmerman is gone. Taken. And the people of small-town Twisted Tree must come to terms with this terrible event—their loss, their place in it, and the secrets they all carry.
In this brilliantly written novel, one girl’s story unfolds through the stories of those who knew her. Among them, a supermarket clerk recalls an encounter with a disturbingly thin Hayley Jo. An ex-priest remembers baptizing Hayley Jo and seeing her with her best friend, Laura, whose mother the priest once loved. And Laura berates herself for all the running they did, how it fed her friend’s addiction, and how there were so many secrets she didn’t see. And so, Hayley Jo’s absence recasts the lives of others and connects them, her death rooting itself into the community in astonishingly violent and tender ways.
Solidly in the company of Aryn Kyle, Kent Haruf, and Peter Matthiessen, Kent Meyers is one of the best contemporary writers on the American West. Here he also takes us into the complexity of community regardless of landscape, and offers a tribute to the powerful effect one person's life can have on everyone she knew.
KENT MEYERS is the author of The Work of Wolves, Light in the Crossing, The River Warren, and The Witness of Combines. He is a recipient of an ALA Alex Award, two Minnesota Book Awards, and a Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association Award. His work has been included in the New York Times list of Notable Books and is published in a wide array of prestigious magazines.
"Twisted Tree is a piercing and original book, beautifully written and conceived. In it Kent Meyers has created a lyrical atlas, revealing all that lies beneath his indelible world of freeway towns and bison ranches--a haunted territory of regret, longing and guilt."-- Jess Walter, author of Citizen Vince and Over Tumbled Graves
"Twisted Tree makes me think of Winesburg, and the fine line between plain folks and grotesques--how one day, through the quirks of circumstance, we find ourselves on the other side of that line, and wonder how long we've been there. Like Russell Banks in The Sweet Hereafter, Kent Meyers spins out his intimate life stories from the hub of a smalltown tragedy and takes us into places we never thought we'd go"--Stewart O'Nan, author of Songs for the Missing and Last Night at the Lobster
"It's hard to find Chinese spices in Twisted Tree, South Dakota, but you'll find just about everything else in Kent Meyers' evocation of the American West, including a world of fascinating characters all tugged toward their central star, the lost girl Hayley Jo Zimmermann. Meyers, like Faulkner and McCarthy, knows that the smallest corner of the country can contain the universe. This is a brilliant and lyrical novel."--Marjorie Sandor, author of Night Gardner and Portrait of My Mother
"Twisted Tree brings all of the dynamics of rural America to life with vivid prose and true to life characters. Kent Meyers is writing some of the most groundbreaking novels about the West today. He looks at this part of the country without blinking, and writes it just as he sees it. A fabulous writer." --Russell Rowland, author of In Open Spaces and The Watershed Years
"In the riveting pages of Twisted Tree, Kent Meyers has expanded the map of his imaginative territory to produce his own brand of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County on the stark Midwestern plains. Revolving around one young woman's absence, the town's varied stories take on dramatic new dimensions. Present and past collide, exposing the delicate mix of history and dream that shapes the American landscape." -- Judith Kitchen, author of The House on Eccles Road
"A master wordsmith and storyteller, Kent Meyers brings us characters who, like so many of us, take years, a lifetime even to face their histories, lying to each other and themselves along the way. So the revelations don't come straight at us but from an oblique angle, which just makes the hard truths we learn even more devastating. The author's vision is wise and compassionate; he honors everyone's story, not out of charity, but to highlight the spectacular web we are creating each moment -- connecting time, space, people, the land. I don't come across novels like this very often -- gorgeously written, addictively entertaining, suspenseful, and spirit-full." -- Susan Power, author of Roofwalker and The Grass Dancer
"Twisted Tree is a lyrical, gorgeously wrought schemata of singular lives glancing off, gracing and intertwining abundantly with others’. In every chapter, its geography gathers dimension and explodes with exponential intimacies. With the hand of a deeply caring maker, Kent Meyers points us towards the mystery of which we are all part."—Lia Purpura, author of On Looking
"Kent Meyers inhabits his people's lives, opening their secret hearts without fear or judgment. Meyers loves as God might love: with wonder and joy, with infinite sorrow. Those bold and curious enough to enter the dangerous world of Twisted Tree will be tenderly transfigured, haunted and sustained by the intricate web of compassion that binds the living to the dead, the saved to the shattered." --Melanie Rae Thon, author of Sweet Hearts and First, Body
"In his beautiful and unsettling new novel, Meyers (The Work of Wolves) examines the effects of a murder on the residents of a small South Dakota town. In an opening sequence that is so disturbing it's difficult to read, teen Hayley Jo Zimmerman is stalked and abducted by a serial killer. The rest of the novel uses the rippling consequences of Hayley Jo's murder to explore the smaller rural tragedies in Twisted Tree, S.D.: Elise, a forlorn grocery clerk, judges everyone by their purchases and hides the secret terrors of her past as a missionary; Sophie Lawrence cares for her invalid stepfather while losing her sanity; Angela Morrison learns to accept the harsh realities of being a rancher's wife; Stanley, Haley Jo's father, channels his grief into a desperate need to connect with a stranger. The novel is brimming with arresting descriptions, and the western setting is employed to surprising effect, as in a sequence contrasting the removal of an invasive salt cedar bush with a father's awareness of his son's first crush. Meyers's small masterpiece deserves comparison to the work of Raymond Carver, Joy Williams and Peter Matthiessen. (Sept.)" -- Publishers Weekly
In his beautiful and unsettling new novel, Meyers (The Work of Wolves) examines the effects of a murder on the residents of a small South Dakota town. In an opening sequence that is so disturbing it''s difficult to read, teen Hayley Jo Zimmerman is stalked and abducted by a serial killer. The rest of the novel uses the rippling consequences of Hayley Jo''s murder to explore the smaller rural tragedies in Twisted Tree, S.D.: Elise, a forlorn grocery clerk, judges everyone by their purchases and hides the secret terrors of her past as a missionary; Sophie Lawrence cares for her invalid stepfather while losing her sanity; Angela Morrison learns to accept the harsh realities of being a rancher''s wife; Stanley, Haley Jo''s father, channels his grief into a desperate need to connect with a stranger. The novel is brimming with arresting descriptions, and the western setting is employed to surprising effect, as in a sequence contrasting the removal of an invasive salt cedar bush with a father''s awareness of his son''s first crush. Meyers''s small masterpiece deserves comparison to the work of Raymond Carver, Joy Williams and Peter Matthiessen. (Sept.)