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2018 nonfiction finalist

Angela Palm | Riverine

Angela PalmAbout the author
Angela Palm owns Ink + Lead Literary Services and is the editor of an anthology of Vermont writers, Please Do Not Remove. Her work has appeared in Paper Darts, Midwestern Gothic, Tampa Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Burlington, Vermont.

About the book
Angela Palm grew up in rural Indiana on the banks of the Kankakee River, whose course had been altered to make room for farmland. Every year the river rose and fell, the water returning to its original path, while residents sandbagged their homes against the flood. From her bedroom window, Palm watched the neighbor boy and loved him in secret, imagining their life together even as she longed for a future that held more than a job at the neighborhood bar. For Palm, caught in this landscape of flood and drought, escape was a continually receding hope. 

Though she did escape, as an adult Palm finds herself drawn back, like the river, to her origins. But this means more than just recalling vibrant, complicated memories of the place that shaped her, or trying to understand the family that raised her. It means visiting the prison where the boy she loved is serving a life sentence for a brutal murder. It means trying to chart, through Riverine’s mesmerizing pages, what happens when a single event forces the path of her life off course.

Riverine is a beautiful book—both expansive and intimate—about homecoming and departure, the American ideal of reinvention and the ways we are bound to and bound by the past.” — Brigid Hughes, Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize judge

Riverine digs deep into the soil of the past—river soil, corn field soil, flooded soil and stubborn soil—to find not only the roots of the future, in all of its mysterious convolutions and divergences, but also the possibility of futures that never came to pass. Angela Palm’s gorgeous candor sings urgently through these pages, her prose a tuning fork offering frequencies I’d never heard before.” — Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams

“Angela Palm’s Riverine is the stuff good memoir is made of: a personal narrative rich in metaphor and insight that finds meaning in those memories that confused us as children, made us squirm as adults. A truly lovely book crafted with exquisite language.” — Domingo Martinez, author of The Boy Kings of Texas

“With a probing curiosity for the topography of both the land and the mind, Angela Palm maps out a world of deep quiet, loneliness, and sudden violence. Riverine reminds us that, while their land may be flat, the lives of those who populate our prairies and flood plains are anything but.” — Will Boast, author of Epilogue

“Angela Palm delivers a lyrical story—we come of age with her as she navigates a complicated landscape within and surrounding her. She breaks rules in life. She breaks rules on the page. Language is her essence here. There are sentences so arresting, I paused and paused and paused to absorb them.” — Molly Caro May, author of The Map of Enough

Riverine is a stop-and-think kind of book, and a stay-up-all-night kind of book, as well, a quest for a place that isn’t quite there, but that grows more real page by page, even as we rush to flee it. Angela Palm offers a fresh voice and shows us the heartland we’re least likely to hear about, those fruited plains dotted with prisons and parties and families that don’t quite fly, even as these chapters soar. A beautiful book, heartfelt but literary, blunt but poetic, moving and wise, funny, too.” — Bill Roorbach, author of Temple Stream and Life Among Giants