Title: Prairie Fever
Author: Michael Parker
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publishing Date: Paperback – June 23, 2020
Genre: Literary fiction
Set in the hardscrabble landscape of early 1900s Oklahoma, but timeless in its sensibility, Prairie Fever traces the intense dynamic between the Stewart sisters: the pragmatic Lorena and the chimerical Elise. The two are bound together not only by their isolation on the prairie but also by their deep emotional reliance on each other. That connection supersedes all else until the arrival of Gus McQueen.
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.
Simply put, the writing was beautiful. The words had a lyrical way about them and set against the harshness of prairie life, the stood out unlike anything I’ve read. Some books in this wilderness setting use prose so desolate that the book becomes a burden. That is not the case here.
The characters were both enigmatic and easy to connect with once you learned their backstories. I love quirky characters and the emotional connection shared between the two sisters was incredibly well done. At times I felt like a third, silent sibling witnessing something incredibly unique. The other characters, also very well developed, balanced out the intensity with bits of humor and beauty.
If you enjoy intense and quirky characters, experimental fiction, and an epistolary twist then this book is for you. The writing is beautiful and sets an atmospheric stage for for a book you will not soon forget.
About the author
MICHAEL PARKER is the author of five novels – Hello Down There, Towns Without Rivers, Virginia Lovers, If You Want Me To Stay, The Watery Part of the World
and two collections of stories, The Geographical Cure
and Don’t Make Me Stop Now
. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in various journals including Five Points, the Georgia Review, The Idaho Review, the Washington Post, the New York Times Magazine, Oxford American, Shenandoah, The Black Warrior Review, Trail Runner and Runner’s World. He has received fellowships in fiction from the North Carolina Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Hobson Award for Arts and Letters, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. His work has been anthologized in the Pushcart, New Stories from the South and O. Henry Prize Stories anthologies. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of Virginia, he is a Professor in the MFA Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Visit his website at www.michaelfparker.com
Thank you to Algonquin Books for a gifted copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
April 21, 2021