Kickdown

A Novel

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About The Book

"An impressive debut novel."—The Washington Post

Finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction

When Jackie Dunbar's father dies, she takes a leave from medical school and goes back to the family cattle ranch in Colorado to set affairs in order. But what she finds derails her: the Dunbar ranch is bankrupt, her sister is having a nervous breakdown, and the oil and gas industry has changed the landscape of this small western town both literally and figuratively, tempting her to sell a gas lease to save the family land.

There is fencing to be repaired and calves to be born, and no one—except Jackie herself—to take control. But then a gas well explodes in the neighboring ranch, and the fallout sets off a chain of events that will strain trust, sever old relationships, and ignite new ones.

Rebecca Clarren's Kickdown is a tautly written debut novel about two sisters and the Iraq war veteran who steps in to help. It is a timeless and timely meditation on the grief wrought by death, war, and environmental destruction. Kickdown, like Kent Haruf's Plainsong or Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone, weaves together the threads of land, family, failure, and perseverance to create a gritty tale about rural America.

About The Author

Award-winning journalist Rebecca Clarren has been writing about the rural West for nearly twenty years. Her journalism, for which she has won the Hillman Prize and an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship, has appeared in such magazines as MotherJones, High Country News, The Nation and Salon.com. Kickdown, shortlisted for the PEN/Bellwether Prize, is her first novel. She lives in Portland, Oregon. with her husband and two young sons.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Arcade (May 5, 2020)
  • Length: 232 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781950691043

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Raves and Reviews

Finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction

"In the novel’s closely observed daily round of ranch work — fixing fences, feeding cows, inoculating and branding the new calf crop — the lives and concerns of these rural folks and their ties to the land are slowly, inevitably revealed to us. The landscape of their world is both harsh and beautiful. “Brown melt-water flows fast through the irrigation ditch, coming down off Mount Baldy. The level might hold off a drought if there is one this summer. From this vantage, the fields are lush with the leavings of winter. The alfalfa is coming in green. A new calf runs and bucks; in just days on earth, its balance is already perfect.” “Kickdown,” in its moving evocation of a place and a people and a way of life at a pivotal point in our history, finds that same nearly perfect balance."—The Washington Post

"Rebecca Clarren's book is deep, true, achingly pure, as stripped of glamour and pretense as the beautiful desolation it describes. With an unflinching eye for the unsettling political and environmental issues of our time, Clarren captures perfectly the heartland of our country and the hearts of those whose old answers have suddenly failed them--they are all strangers to themselves, full of wonder and worry, wild impulses, inarticulate feelings. Kickdownis what life sounds like when we give up the search for who we thought we were supposed to be, and begin the search for our own true humanity."—Karen Fisher, author of A Sudden Country, Finalist for the Pen/Faulkner Award

“Exquisitely written, Rebecca Clarren’s novel reminds you of the power of fiction — the way it can engage with contemporary politics, and still remain, at its heart, an imaginative art form. The prose is beautiful; the ideas are unflinching; the narrative throughline will propel you forward unstoppably. Clarren’s great talent, though, is engagement with character. You care about these people and, through caring, you are transformed. A brilliant book.”—Pauls Toutonghi, author of Evel Knievel Days and Dog, Gone

"Kickdown is an important, urgent novel. It's about ecological destruction, but it's also about resistance, compassion, and love. Rebecca Clarren vividly depicts the beauty and the toughness of the American West in this timely, extraordinary debut." —Carter Sickels, author of The Evening Hour, winner of the Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award and a finalist for the Oregon Book Award

"Because of aridity, because of 500,000 square miles of federal land, the West is eternal. What changes are its villains and good guys. Rebecca Clarren’s Kickdown is a worthy companion to our best Western novels. Its characters live and breathe, and the land and their work on the land remain at the center of this fine first novel. Most impressive are Clarren's descriptions of the unrelenting work that makes western ranches the most beautiful of man-made landscapes."—Ed Marston, former publisher, High Country News

"A beautifully crafted portrayal. . . . Clarren has created a novel that will draw readers into the choices faced by the characters. They struggle with life-altering decisions, but all is not grim; there is beauty and hope, too."The Durango Herald

"Masterful . . . a beautiful narrative about family . . . a women-centric Western." —WCBN's Living Writers

"[A] vivid debut novel." —The Oregonian

"An amazing novel." —Why There Are Words PDX

"Visceral, pulls you right in." Lit in the Mitten

"Clarren breathes life into inanimate things all over the range —?mud, gravel, clay, amniotic fluid, blood, cowshit, irrigation water, creek flows, wind. . . . Clarren’s close-range portrait of people on the rural margins makes Kickdown important reading." —Medium

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