After the Dam

Set against the majestic backdrop of the Wisconsin Northwoods, After the Dam follows new mother Rachel Clayborne in a doomed chase after the girl she once was toward a harrowing encounter with the woman she now is.

Undone by motherhood, judged by her husband, thirty-two-year-old Rachel Clayborne flees with her baby in the middle of the night for the one place on earth that’s been her refuge: her grandmother’s lake house in northern Wisconsin. Hoping to reconnect with a former, healthier self, she instead faces a confused and dying grandmother, her controlling and possibly gold-digging nurse, and a changed ex-boyfriend?her first and most passionate love. As a constant rain threatens the nearby dam, Rachel struggles to discern what’s happened to the past, who she’s become, and what kind of a life she will make for herself now?one that clings to ghosts or opens bravely to a wild new geography.

From the acclaimed author of Nina: Adolescence and The Priest’s Madonna comes a gripping new novel that depicts the transformative power of motherhood with honesty, wit, and compassion.


Taut, beautifully written, and suspenseful, this resonant, feminist drama eschews easy answers. A page-turner of the highest caliber.—Kirkus Reviews

“After the Dam weaves threads of connection between several generations of two families split by history’s implacable seasons of growth, death, and renewal, as one generation passes onto the next the unresolved moral legacy left by the one before. Lush with description, After the Dam draws us beneath the surface of its characters’ lives into an undertow of emotional conflict that makes you feel you are immersed in the minds and hearts of people you know. It’s a compelling read that’s hard to put down once you have been drawn into its tide.”—Richard Duggin, author of Why Won’t You Talk to Me? and The Music Box Treaty

“Told with heartbreaking clarity about what it means to be a mother–a complex and vulnerable human being with responsibilities to the past and the future, After the Dam is a story about discovering the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Amy Hassinger’s lyrical prose is a joy to read.”—Karen Shoemaker, author of The Meaning of Names and Night Sounds and Other Stories

“Forces of nature—big water and big love–come together in this unforgettable literary page-turner. Amy Hassinger has woven a tale out of the very earth where the Ojibwe live. Her protagonist — Rachel — is a lover, mother, and activist, a woman of our time on a hero’s journey toward wholeness.”—Patricia Henley, author of Hummingbird House and Other Heartbreaks

“Intricate, delicate, lyrical, with a powerful sense of place, After the Dam is a generational saga that has the draw of a good mystery. It’s about the desire to go back and do things differently, make different choices, take a different path. And each character’s individual choice, past and present, hugely impacts the lives of the others for better or worse. Amy Hassinger has written a spellbinding book that left me wishing for more.”—Patricia Lear, author of Stardust, 7-Eleven, Route 57, and So Forth

“A dam built of dirt may give way to the force of water, and a marriage built on convenience may give way to the force of desire. In this compelling novel, the heroine’s disruptive desire is not only for sex, that staple of human stories, but also for a home place and a purposeful life. The place she chooses has been loved and cared for by several generations of her own family, and for many more generations by the native people who call themselves Anishinaabe. How to reconcile rival claims to the same homeland? How to reconcile the needs of her infant daughter and her dutiful husband with her own need for self-fulfillment? Amy Hassinger poses the questions vividly, without pretending there are easy answers.”—Scott Russell Sanders, author of Earth Works: Selected Essays

“Amy Hassinger’s elegiac novel about the shifting, elusive nature of family and love made me feel, while reading, as if my heart were pumping inside the author’s fist. By the end, I was reminded by After the Dam and its characters that, to borrow a metaphor from the novel, we humans make our lives from sand, and sand will always slip.”—Susanna Daniel, author of Sea Creatures and Stiltsville

“This book does what my favorite books always do: grab the reader with tautness and fierce intelligence, so that even the quiet drama of it gets pulled into the page-turning qualities of the narrative. I could say, Read this book. Instead I’ll say, Start this book. You won’t stop reading until its terrific ending.”—Leigh Allison Wilson, author of Wind and From the Bottom Up

“The women of two families, one Native, one White, and the piece of earth both feel they own are at the center of this lyrical and compassionate novel. A moving story about the consequences of historical amnesia and the healing power of mother love.”—Carol Spindel, author of Dancing at Halftime: Sports and the Controversy Over American Indian Mascots

A blue filtered photograph of a woman in a white dress submerged in water with white script that reads After the Dam a novel by Amy Hassinger.

Amy Hassinger ( Author Website )

Publication Date: September 16, 2016

Genre/Imprint: Fiction, Red Hen Press

$16.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 978-1-59709-753-6


After the Dam review from Kirkus

"Taut, beautifully written, and suspenseful, this resonant, feminist drama eschews easy answers. A page-turner of the highest caliber." Kirkus details the book's plot points, setting, and themes