Prairie Fever by Michael Parker
Published: May 21, 2019 – Algonquin Books
Book provided by the publisher and NetGalley
Description: When Gus arrives in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, as a first time teacher, his inexperience is challenged by the wit and ingenuity of the Stewart sisters. Then one impulsive decision and a cataclysmic blizzard trap Elise and her horse on the prairie and forever change the balance of everything between the sisters, and with Gus McQueen. With honesty and poetic intensity and the deadpan humor of Paulette Jiles and Charles Portis, Parker reminds us of the consequences of our choices. Expansive and intimate, this novel tells the story of characters tested as much by life on the prairie as they are by their own churning hearts. (publisher)
My take: During the harsh winter of 1916 the Stewart sisters (Elise, 15, and Lorena, 17) ride their faithful horse to school no matter the weather. Their young teacher, Mr. McQueen, meets them and helps them off the horse and into the school room every day. The three are the central characters of the novel and we’ll see how their lives intertwine and go off in different directions according to the choices they make. I was drawn in by Michael Parker’s storytelling – the humor he injected in the day-to-day as well as the brutality of life on the prairie that many didn’t survive. I laughed when the sisters recited stories from the local newspaper. It reminded me of my own small, hometown newspaper that often had a younger me rolling my eyes at the headlines and articles considered newsworthy. Overall, an enjoyable read. Recommended to fans of the author and historical fiction.
About the author:
Michael Parker’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times Magazine, the Oxford American, Runner’s World, Men’s Journal, and elsewhere. His work has been anthologized in The O. Henry Prize Stories and The Pushcart Prize. He is the Nicholas and Nancy Vacc Distinguished Professor in the MFA Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and divides his time between Saxapahaw, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas.
Photo credit: Tasha Thomas
Praise for Prairie Fever:
“Parker’s chimerical slipstream of a novel asks, Is it better to hew to that which is, or to see the world as you wish? Readers will surely be pulled deep into the strange and wild river of Elise’s fanciful peregrinations.”
— Booklist starred review
“In the tradition of Katherine Ann Porter, Parker’s exceptional tale explores the power and strength of kinship on the harsh American frontier.”
“Let me just say that Prairie Fever—concerning the lives of the Stewart sisters of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, in the early years of the twentieth century—is the most beautiful novel I have read in quite some time. Taking a cue from the irrepressibly inventive younger sister, Elise, I soon began reading it aloud to someone I love, and the novel more than rewards such a shared experience. The language is that graceful and original, the events and characters (horses included) that spellbinding and funny and moving; and always the melancholy beauty and mysterious power of the open prairie shine through. To borrow a phrase from Mr. McQueen—first encountered as a young teacher in a one-room schoolhouse—one comes away from the novel with a keener sense of ‘how one ought to go about living one’s life.’”
—Tom Drury, author of Pacific
“That a love story of this strangeness and rightness can come out of the event of a girl nearly dead in a storm is a testament to the wonder that is Michael Parker’s talent. Not least, he’s invented a language, a formal way of speaking that is perfectly suited to his people and to this dreamy novel.”
—Jane Hamilton, author of The Excellent Lombards
“Prairie Fever is an exceptionally charming novel about the wonders and troubles of love, land, and language. Witty and poignant, the novel is as elegantly constructed as a poem, and it features the best dialogue this side—or any side—of the Natchez Trace. Yet another wonderful book from Michael Parker.”
—Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special
“What a terrific book this is, wonderful and strange . . . a whole family acting out what can and can’t be forgotten, against the backdrops of prairie and range—characters so magnificently and sometimes comically stubborn I really couldn’t put the book down. And what other novel has a character writing letters to a dead horse? I was completely taken by this book.”
—Joan Silber, author of Improvement
“Michael Parker has captured a time, place, and sisterhood so perfectly it hurts to turn the last page. Prairie Fever is a riveting, atmospheric dream of a novel.”
—Dominic Smith, author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
8 thoughts on “Prairie Fever by Michael Parker”
Historical fiction isn’t my favorite but this sounds sweet so I might give it a try.
I haven’t come across this book before, sounds fun but with sort of a dark undertone there with the dangers of the prairie.
I haven’t read this author but I really like historical fiction and I love the sound of this. I’ll have to try this one!
Sounds like a good one. Thanks for sharing.
I hope to do more blog visiting next week; slowly settling into my new place.
I enjoyed your “take”, and think I’d enjoy this story as well!
Ooh! This sounds like my kind of read, thank you for sharing your thoughts on it.
[…] Review: Prairie Fever […]
This sounds like one I would like, even though it shows the harsh life on the prairie. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
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