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Lillian Anderson is a strong-minded, backwoods-Minnesota girl, well-versed in the basics of survival. She can find air to breathe under a capsized boat, drive in a blizzard, or capture a wild duck. As part of a large struggling family, she tiptoes around her explosive father whose best days always come right after he’s poached something and her neurotically optimistic mother whose bursts of vigor bring added chaos. Lillian barrels through adolescence with no illusions about her future, honing her clerical skills while working the nightshift as a salad girl in the airport kitchen. Just as she’s on her feet and moving out, their house is literally sinking into the marsh. Stunningly honest, this story explores the fierce love that binds family together.
“Wonderfully wry-melancholy . . . An auspicious and stirring debut.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Rigorously beautiful without an ounce of dangerous pretension, a book I’ll put on my book club’s list and keep by the bed for dark nights when I need a language booster shot.”—Kaye Gibbons
“Reading Jean Harfenist’s [writing] is like finding a hot slot machine in a casino. One winner after another? In wild defiance of the odds? Who cares. Stay seated.”—Richard Russo
“Charming. . . . Jean Harfenist shows a sure touch with characterization . . . deft and subtle. . . . [Harfenist’s] narration is consistently absorbing and enlivened by flashes of description that are unexpected yet completely in character.” —Washington Post
“Harfenist’s integrated themes and evocative prose style elevate A Brief History of the Flood . . . giving it the satisfying, rounded feel of a good novel.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A granite-tough perspective on a wild and sometimes dangerous childhood. . . . One thinks of the flinty poetry of Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club, say, or the cocksure ease of Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. Hilariously wrought . . . without a whit of melodrama . . . equal parts humor and steel.”—Gail Caldwell, Boston Globe
“Harfenist has endowed her narrator with an eminent toughness and scathing wit that make being with Lillian the baddest kind of fun.” —Chicago Tribune