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"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." —Elliott Holt, author of You Are One of Them
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. With wisdom and grit, Kenny has fashioned a deeply affecting story of a young woman discovering loss, heartache, and—finally—hope.
About the Author
Meghan Kenny is the author of Love Is No Small Thing: Stories. Her short story "The Driest Season"—the basis for her debut novel—won the Iowa Review Award and was a Pushcart Prize Special Mention. She lives in Pennsylvania.
Quiet but satisfying…Haunting…Kenny reveals, with a clarity so delicate it is sometimes painful, the human reaction to trauma. — Ann Leary
Precise and strong…The workmanlike nature of the prose beautifully echoes the land as well as the characters…[T]he book is about survival as much as it’s about grief and coming-of-age. What’s particularly wonderful here is how unsentimental this all is. Kenny is not interested in nostalgia, or in describing a world of the past where everything was simpler and, therefore, better.
The Driest Season settled over me like weather: sweeping in, wholly immersive, charged with coming change. In clear-eyed, chiseled prose that perfectly captures her novel’s hard-worn world and the powerful emotions churning through its people, Meghan Kenny manages, with wisdom and tenderness, to grapple with some of the greatest struggles of the human heart: grief and the gathering of oneself out of its dust, love and the loss that is ‘a space like an empty piece of sky’ following young Cielle around. A lingering power that, long after the last page of this moving story, follows me too.
— Josh Weil, author of The Age of Perpetual Light
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. — Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and No One Is Here Except All of Us
The Driest Season marks the arrival of a new writer with talent, intention, and a story to tell. 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.
— Robert Olmstead, author of Coal Black Horse
It’s hard not to fall in love with Cielle Jacobson, the resilient fifteen-year-old girl at the center of this spare, searingly honest novel. Confronted with unspeakable loss, she discovers strengths of character that salvage a future for herself and her entire family. 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. — Lin Enger, author of The High Divide
The Driest Season evokes the naive confusion of teenage years, particularly when tragedy strikes. 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.
— Chris Offutt, author of My Father, the Pornographer
A finely crafted novel deserving wide attention.
[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.
Quiet and moving…With a light touch, Kelly tells an impactful story of everyday lives in trying circumstances.