Harrow : a novel

by Williams, Joy, 1944-

Format: Print Book 2021
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In her first novel since The Quick and the Dead (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), the legendary writer takes us into an uncertain landscape after an environmental apocalypse, a world in which only the man-made has value, but some still wish to salvage the authentic.

"She practices . . . camouflage, except that instead of adapting to its environment, Williams's imagination, by remaining true to itself, reveals new colorations in the ecology around her." --A.O. Scott, The New York Times Book Review

Khristen is a teenager who, her mother believes, was marked by greatness as a baby when she died for a moment and then came back to life. After Khristen's failing boarding school for gifted teens closes its doors, and she finds that her mother has disappeared, she ranges across the dead landscape and washes up at a "resort" on the shores of a mysterious, putrid lake the elderly residents there call "Big Girl."

In a rotting honeycomb of rooms, these old ones plot actions to punish corporations and people they consider culpable in the destruction of the final scraps of nature's beauty. What will Khristen and Jeffrey, the precocious ten-year-old boy she meets there, learn from this "gabby seditious lot, in the worst of health but with kamikaze hearts, an army of the aged and ill, determined to refresh, through crackpot violence, a plundered earth"?

Rivetingly strange and beautiful, and delivered with Williams's searing, deadpan wit, Harrow is their intertwined tale of paradise lost and of their reasons--against all reasonableness--to try and recover something of it.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Master short story writer Williams (The Visiting Privilege, 2015), winner of the 2021 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, returns to the novel after a long absence to portray a bleak near-future. In this blasted America, the harrow, a farming implement used to break up the earth, has become a morbidly unifying symbol, given that harrow also means to torment or to pillage. All apply as young Khristen, homeless after the abrupt closing of her grim, bookless boarding school, journeys stoically through rack and ruin, searching for her mother. She arrives at a decrepit desert conference facility beside a dark and polluted lake called Big Girl. The cancer-afflicted proprietor, Lola, allows Khristen to stay; the only other guests are a martini-swilling woman and her son, Jeffrey, a 10-year-old jurisprudential savant. The regular residents are a band of renegade elders committed to going out with a bang in violent acts of protest against those who destroyed the planet's web of life, valuing only the human made. Nature "has been deemed sociopathic," as has anyone who tries to defend it. Balancing creeping despair with mordant humor and piquant strangeness pegged to Jeffery's fascination with a Franz Kafka story, Williams asks if hope and compassion, reason and responsibility can survive once the wonders of wild and flourishing nature have been utterly destroyed. Brilliantly and exquisitely shrewd and unnerving."
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Pulitzer finalist Williams (The Quick and the Dead) returns with a dystopian saga of environmental cataclysm that is by turns triumphant, damning, and beguiling. Sometime in the near future, Khristen is sent to a boarding school in the desert of the American West by her mother, a woman haunted by the fact that she believes Khristen briefly died as an infant and came back to life. After the school is shut down, Khristen sets off across a decimated landscape only to end up lodging at a remote hotel inhabited by elderly ecoterrorists, visionaries, and would-be assassins, led by their host, Lola. Among these residents, Khristen also meets a strange 10-year-old named Jeffrey, and together they face the environmental ruination and human depravity that mark the new world these characters all inhabit, while still remembering "the old dear stories of possibility" and noting how "no one wanted them anymore, but nothing had replaced them." Rollicking with language that is at once biblical and casual, this builds like a sermon to a fever pitch. Williams's well-known themes of social decline and children in danger are polished to a gorgeous luster in this prescient page-turner. The result serves as both an indictment of current culture and a blazing escape from it. (Sept.)"
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Additional Information
Subjects Dystopias -- Fiction.
Fantasy fiction.
Publisher New York :2021
Edition First edition.
Language English
Description ix, 203 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN 9780525657569
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