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Boreal Books Archives - Red Hen Press

The Getting Place

The stories in The Getting Place spring from the places Frank Soos loved best: the coal hills of southwest Virginia, the coves of coastal Maine, and the rivers and tundra around Fairbanks, Alaska. They ask, “Who can know the why of his own life, the why of what he does?” We join his characters when their lives spin beyond their control, when they face unexpected upheavals that change their lives utterly. By turns quirky, heartbreaking, profound, and witty, these brilliant stories open the hidden rooms inside us.
—Peggy Shumaker

Artwork titled "Winter Birch" by Margo Klass depicts a photograph of five ascending toothbrush heads equidistant to each other, in front of a piece of petrified birch wood and a rusting metal disk with brown text stating "The Getting Place", nine stories by Frank Soos

Frank Soos

Publication Date: January 25, 2022

Genre/Imprint: Boreal Books, Short Stories

$16.95 Tradepaper

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ISBN: 9781597099219

Everything Never Comes Your Way

In her third collection, Nicole Stellon O’Donnell explores the landscapes of memory, argument, and wilderness. These poems deconstruct memoir, dig at the roots of philosophical argumentation, and critique the role of the poet as an observer of the natural world. From manicured baseball fields to the debate podium, from the lobby of the public pool to the hallowed Alaskan cabin where John Haines once sat down to write, these poems push against the notion that the solitary self is the arbiter of truth. 

ADVANCE PRAISE

“There are other doors. Even some we contain,” writes Nicole Stellon O’Donnell in this intricate series of poems, by turns spare and expansive, lineated and prose. They’re all here—all the doors she promises, each one propped deftly ajar. I trust few writers like I trust O’Donnell to reckon honestly with the hybrid self. This book honors both the speaker’s hard interior weather and all the landscapes against which her life-dramas are cast. Part memoir, part meditation, and part literary confrontation, this speaker’s voice is ultimately a teacher’s voice, nuanced and discerning. Among her teachings, I cherish these especially: how to “imagine the gray empty of after,” how to “lean toward the quickly / deepening sky,” how to “Be wrong well.”—Julie Marie Wade, author of Just an Ordinary Woman Breathing

What do we leave out, what do we include—as we fashion a poetry, as we forge a life? These are the questions of Nicole Stellon O’Donnell’s elliptical and beguiling Everything Never Comes Your Way. Ranging from picking crowberries to battling a daughter’s cancer, from the struggle to write as a mother and an Alaskan, O’Donnell challenges us and herself both to do “everything we can do” and to “be wrong well.” “Let what little / I am allowed to offer / be a thread,” she writes, and in this book we see an artist using that thread to weave, out of the disparate, her world. This is a book to savor.—Tess Taylor, author of Rift Zone

An abstract design of a blue outlined flower and dark blue spheres floating around with pink script on top that reads Everything Never Comes Your Way poems by Nicole Stellon O’Donell.

Nicole Stellon O’Donnell ( Author Website )

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Genre/Imprint: Boreal Books, Poetry

$16.95 Tradepaper

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ISBN: 9781597099240

The Book of Timothy

Like Mark Doty’s Heaven’s Coast, The Book of Timothy: The Devil, My Brother, and Me weaves a lyric voice into a difficult subject matter; in this case, a sister’s attempt to extract a confession from the Catholic priest who abused her brother. When the legal system fails, is restorative justice still possible?

Set in Rome, Chicago, and Anchorage, and spanning thirty years from crime to confrontation, The Book of Timothy: The Devil, My Brother, and Me recounts in lyric movements a sister’s journey, partly through trickery, but eventually through truth, to gain a long-absent admission from the priest who abused her brother. While on that journey, Nockels Wilson, a former prosecutor, confronts not only the priest, but her personal quest for vengeance. She further seeks an understanding of how the first Book of Timothy, the work of St. Paul, contributed to the silencing of women in her once loved Catholic Church. This Book of Timothy promises to take the reader on a quest for justice and down a path of unexpected coincidences that ends where it first began: out of a great love for a brother and in the power of first memory.

ADVANCE PRAISE

Prosecutor, marathoner, and heartbroken sister Joan Nockels Wilson combines investigatory skills, endurance, and a thirst for answers—possibly even revenge—in a harrowing quest to track down and confront the priest who molested her brother. Wilson’s stunning memoir succeeds on multiple levels, evoking a Chicago childhood steeped in firefighting lore, the Cubs and Catholic ritual, while also transporting us to modern-day Rome and the Vatican, places rich in beauty and hypocrisy. Some books are disturbing, yet should be read regardless. This one equally unnerves and uplifts, using both pathos and dark humor to illuminate the plight of a writer dedicated to family, complex faith, and the tireless pursuit of understanding.
—Andromeda Romano-Lax, author of Annie and the Wolves

“Searching, righteous, uncompromising—this is a powerful tribute to a brother’s courage, a sister’s perseverance. In the end, The Book of Timothy transforms into a book of redemption.”
—Alison Smith, bestselling author of Name All the Animals: A Memoir

“Joan Wilson’s two feet on the ground, spiritual journey towards a hard-won compassion begins as a quest for revenge and becomes something else, which I want to call grace. This is an important story for victims of abuse, first by priests then, in its failure to protect children, by the Catholic Church itself. It’s an important story, and I’m grateful to Joan Wilson for telling it.”
—Beverly Donofrio, bestselling author of Riding in Cars With Boys: Confessions of a Bad Girl Who Makes Good

“The Book of Timothy is one of the hardest stories I’ve ever been privileged to read. Since it must have been an even harder one to write, Joan Wilson deserves great applause for ushering her readers so gently, yet fiercely, through its many layers.

“A warrior on behalf of her beloved younger brother, Tim, who was, for several years, sexually abused by her family’s Catholic priest, Joan, the lawyer, ushers his case through unwelcoming efforts to find legal remedies. But it is Joan, the sister, who understands what it will take for Tim, and for herself too, to reach some version of peace. And it is Joan, the warrior, who travels to Rome to seek out and confront the criminal priest given shelter at the Vatican by church authorities doing everything possible to evade responsibility.

“This story shines a light, rarely seen, on deep sibling love. It also examines the rarely examined consequences, to a whole family, of sexual abuse specifically perpetrated by a spiritual mentor—consequences that leave this author in a deep conflict with the church in which she was raised. She had always, previously, trusted that church to provide support through such trials of the soul, but in this case she can trust only herself, all the way to Vatican City. “—Judith Barrington, author of Lifesaving: A Memoir

“Partly a crusade for justice, partly an exploration of Catholic theology and history, and in all ways the soul of a determined, loving, faithful sister, Joan Nockels Wilson’s memoir The Book of Timothy will remain in your heart forever.” —Jo-Ann Mapson, author of Hank & Chloe, Solomon’s Oak, and Owen’s Daughter

An off-white cover with black script in the center that reads The Book of Timothy: The Devil, My Brother and Me a memoir by Joan Nockels Wilson, with a photograph at the top of a brother and sister sitting around a birthday cake.

Joan Nockels Wilson ( Author Website )

Publication Date: November 9, 2021

Genre/Imprint: Boreal Books, Memoir

$18.95 Tradepaper

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ISBN: 9781597099325

Open the Dark

Marie Tozier’s Open the Dark is an exquisite collection of poems depicting a generational tapestry woven with the shared ebb and flow of land and sea and time. Loving hands, dyed sweet with raspberries and lingonberries, pass ancestral knowledge—of the hunt for seal and crab to pressing ironless, ruler-straight seams—from grandmother to mother, mother to daughter. This is a collection that beckons, like a mother’s warm embrace, into the vibrant scent and taste of Inupiaq Alaska.

ADVANCE PRAISE

“A sure sense of emplacement might be one of the most elusive and valuable qualities a poet can embody. Marie Tozier’s first book of poems clearly is emplaced in family, community, geography, history, and the seasonality of animals and plants in Western Alaska. An echo of Lorine Niedecker’s limpid trust in the truths of the physical world and the rage and sorrow of Layli Long Soldier’s work against the harm of cultural silencing rings through Open the Dark. Trust this direct, clear voice. Open yourself.”—Elizabeth Bradfield, author of Toward Antarctica

“Open the Dark is a book of understated lyric power. The traditional narratives of love and loss, which give us the lyric, are here taking place in a setting and among a people only recently making their way into the American canon. The low landscape of the north, with its arduously gathered gifts of subsistence, birds egg, berries, seals and mammals, the preciousness of sweetness, the implacable demand to labor, add an acute dimension to our usual scenes of love and family. Tozier’s naturally gifted lyric voice, soft-spoken, as is her tradition, conveys unforgettably a culture of steep intergenerational knowledge and honor, as well as its swift losses.”—Linda McCarriston, author of Talking Soft Dutch and Little River: New and Selected Poems

A coffee and tea stained brown background with brown text on top that reads Open The Dark poems by Marie Tozier.

Marie Tozier

Publication Date: August 11, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Boreal Books, Poetry

$15.95 Tradepaper

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-920-2

Mostly Water

In Mostly Water, essays form a linked memoir that explores the American outback from eastern Oregon horse trails to the arctic and subarctic river towns of Alaska. In these landscapes, Native people and later-comers are entwined in histories as loopy as northern rivers. Odden invites the reader to a vivid patchwork of characters and seldom-seen places, with a soundtrack from fiddle dances and a menu “half potlatch and half potluck.” In Mostly Water, readers will hear dance music ring through little towns and watch as friends conspire to stoke the fires and fading memories of an old pioneer. The danger of giving birth takes a crooked path through a mystical elk hunt on its way to the miracle of holding a child. Casual meetings with passengers on an Inside Passage ferry open to intimacy with a Tlingit grandmother and the dignified depths of an ocean-going hobo. Bush town storefronts forsake their rivers to welcome the airplane. The falling of the Twin Towers on 9/11 silences the sky over a remote Alaskan village. Short takes on a vivid personal cuisine divide the longer essays of Mostly Water. In these interludes, dead grandmothers mix it up over turkey gravy, and ripe berries are sweet and dangerous after Chernobyl’s radioactive winds blow around the top of the Earth. Taken altogether, this book offers readers a deeply refreshing drink from streams rural and north.

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Mary Odden’s essays are a wonder.  I don’t know what I enjoy most about them, whether it is the clear-eyed re-creation of people and places, the rich music of her language, or—and maybe this is where I take the deepest pleasure as I read—those astounding paragraphs where Mary turns to her readers and offers all the gathered insights and ideas her essays have to share.  At such moments, I am dazzled by a person of genius who can lead me out into fresh and surprising turns of thought.”—Frank Soos, author of Unpleasantries: Considerations of Difficult Questions

“Mary Odden’s authentic, profound, and original Mostly Water will thaw parts of you you didn’t even know had frozen. Love, work, animals, food, music: were we to disappear, humanity could be remade of the ingredients here set forth by this remarkable writer. Suffused with wonder, steeped in memory, and written in an exquisitely musical prose, the essays in this book serve to harmonize head with heart in a way that can only be called wisdom.”—Richard Hoffman, author of Half the House and Love & Fury

An abstract graphic that resembles the ocean and a rock with white text that reads Mostly Water, Reflections Rural and North by Mary Odden.

Mary Odden ( Author Website )

Publication Date: June 2, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Boreal Books, Memoir

$16.95 Tradepaper

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-919-6

Toward Antarctica

A lyric travelogue of photographs and writing by poet-naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield, who guides on ecotour ships in Antarctica. This book sounds, challenges, documents, and queries one of the world’s most iconic wild places.

Poet-naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield’s fourth collection documents and queries her work as a guide on ships in Antarctica, offering an incisive insider’s vision that challenges traditional tropes of The Last Continent. Inspired by haibun, a form the 17th-century poet Bashō invented to chronicle his journeys in remote Japan, Bradfield uses photographs, compressed prose, and short poems to examine our relationships to remoteness, discovery, expertise, awe, labor, temporary societies, tourism’s service economy, and “pure” landscapes. Antarctica was the focus of Bradfield’s Approaching Ice, written before she had set foot on the continent; now Toward Antarctica furthers her investigation with boots on the ground. A complicated love letter, Toward Antarctica offers a unique view of one of the world’s most iconic wild places.

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Modern expedition ships sail south to Antarctica every year, carrying continent-baggers and bucket-listers who drink a toast to Shackleton, pat themselves on the back and heroically claim, ‘We made it!’ It takes a poet, and a darn good one, “to at once be there and to not even come close.” This is Elizabeth Bradfield writing to the truth in what she calls, “crepuscular moments of poetry . . . Here on this unbridled ocean. Here on this world unto itself.” Having been to Antarctica many times, and studied its literature, I found this book an artful standout from the crowd, one garnished with reflection and rust, humor and humility, sincerity, and respect.”—Kim Heacox, author of Antarctica: The Last ContinentJimmy Bluefeather, and The Only Kayak

A photograph of the ice glaciers in Antartica and a red flag post towards the bottom and white script that reads Toward Antartica an exploration by Elizabeth Bradfield.

Elizabeth Bradfield ( Author Website )

Publication Date: May 9, 2019

Genre/Imprint: Boreal Books, Hybrid

$19.95 Tradepaper

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-886-1

Fast into the Night: A Woman, Her Dogs, and Their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail

Part adventure, part love story, part inquiry into the mystery of connection between humans and dogs, Fast into the Night is an exquisitely written memoir of a woman, her dogs, and what can happen when someone puts herself in that place between daring and doubt and soldiers on.

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Not only does Fast into the Night detail in spare and honest prose all the grit and excitement that is the Iditarod, but its author aptly takes us along on her personal journey with all its internal struggles, tribulations, and tumult. At the same time, she captures the remarkable bond that exists between mushers and their dogs. Bravo for turning out what may be the quintessential Iditarod story, and for crafting what is simply a great Alaskan adventure well told.”—Dave Atcheson, author of Dead Reckoning and Hidden Alaska

Fast into the Night isn’t just the title of a great book. It’s a description of how I read this gripping and honest story of a woman’s passion to run the Iditarod while putting her dogs’ health and happiness first. I have only one complaint: Moderow owes me a night’s sleep, because I couldn’t put this book down.”—Patricia B. McConnell, author of The Education of Will and The Other End of the Leash

“I expected high adventure from Debbie Clarke Moderow’s story of running the Iditarod—and happily, I found it. Moderow beautifully captures the personality of each dog as she struggles to earn the team’s trust, and she reveals her vulnerabilities as she learns to trust herself. This is an extraordinary account of a family’s faith in one another—four-leggeds and two-leggeds alike.”—Sherry Simpson, author of The Way Winter Comes and Dominion of Bears

A photograph of a woman in the snow riding a sled being pulled by dogs and white script that reads Fast Into the Night: a woman, her dogs, and their journey North on the Iditarod Trail by Debbie Clarke Moderow.

Debbie Clarke Moderow ( Author Website )

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Genre/Imprint: Boreal Books, Memoir

$16.95 Tradepaper

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-976-9