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The Rending and the Nest Hardcover – February 20, 2018
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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"Schwehn has created a postapocalyptic world in which why is not the main question. The Rending happened; accepting that is the first step toward recovery for the novel's multidimensional characters. This beautifully written story begs to be read again." - starred review, Library Journal
"[An] unsettling, postapocalyptic page-turner . . . Schwehn has created an intriguing and bizarre world where there are no easy answers . . . Readers will race to find out just what is happening and what it all means . . . The entertainment value is high, and those looking for a new dystopian world will be pleased." - Booklist
"This absorbing debut novel . . . offers a world that is intensely familiar yet strange . . . Schwehn's narrator establishes her place among post-apocalyptic heroines through her willingness to remake the world from what she has left and her unlikely arrival at hope." - Kirkus Reviews
"Schwehn's bizarre novel blends seamless storytelling with the raw emotion of a world suddenly turned on its head . . . The story culminates in a riveting rescue mission. Schwehn's novel is nerve-wracking in the most satisfying way, and the characters are vivid enough to elevate this story above the well-traveled terrain of postapocalyptic fiction." - Publishers Weekly
"Why You'll Love It: Kaethe Schwehn's post-apocalyptic novel delivers thrills and drama, tackling the question of what it means to love others in a broken world." - Paste Magazine, "25 Most Anticipated Books of 2018"
"Kaethe Schwehn vividly portrays a hostile world in which survival depends on stories shared, accepted and believed... a post-apocalyptic tale of personal acceptance and reinvention that is as compelling as it is unnerving." - Minneapolis Star Tribune
"However nasty the world is after the Rending, Schwehn’s depiction of it is entertaining, thoughtful, and even playful. She doesn’t avoid the horror of a desperate situation, but horror isn’t the main point. This is a rich, smart novel that imagines an incredible alternative world." - Christian Century
"Part post-apocalyptic novel and part coming-of-age tale, The Rending and the Nest tells the story of ordinary people struggling to understand extraordinary change. It's poignant and mournful, sexy and wry. Kaethe Schwehn is a remarkable talent with a vast and wild imagination." - Edan Lepucki, New York Times bestselling author of CALIFORNIA and WOMAN NO. 17
"It is impossible to read Kaethe Schwehn’s extraordinary, uncanny novel without placing yourself in the center of its circumstances. Because sometimes the world really does wobble on its axis and in an instant all that we know or have is gone. The only honest comfort we can claim as our own is the stories we call forth from the ruins." - Jill Alexander Essbaum, New York Times bestselling author of HAUSFRAU
"An accomplished and mesmerizing debut packed with humor and horror and grace. Kaethe Schwehn offers up a magical, unsettling vision of the future, and in doing so joins the company of such literary dazzlers as George Saunders and Margaret Atwood." - Benjamin Percy, author of RED MOON and THE DARK NET
"One of the most exciting debut novels I've ever read. It beautifully illustrates the fragility of parenthood, womanhood, and our very humanity. Surreal and precise, sharp and moving, this novel joins the ranks of other genius post-apocalyptic works like Oryx and Crake and Station Eleven. Read it and marvel." - Sharma Shields, author of THE SASQUATCH HUNTER'S ALMANAC
"A rich and passionate novel of page-turning intensity, an unflinching gaze into our deepest flaws, offering a way forward in the simplest of terms: love, community, humility and trust." - Michelle Hoover, author of THE QUICKENING and BOTTOMLAND
"A necessary and luminous story about coming to terms with a ruined world. An unforgettable novel, dazzling despite its darkness. Schwehn is a brave and brilliant writer." - René Steinke, author of FRIENDSWOOD and HOLY SKIRTS
"Schwehn’s Tailings, is, like all of my favorite contemporary nonfiction, uncategorizable--part memoir, part spiritual reflection, part reportage. Brilliant in all of its guises, Tailings only makes me want to read more by Kaethe Schwehn. She writes with fierce intelligence and luminous clarity on all of her subjects: loss, grace, this very particular village, and the hard work of renewal. Tailings is a beautiful and original book by a remarkable writer." - Rene Steinke, author of FRIENDSWOOD, on TAILINGS
About the Author
Kaethe Schwehn's first book, Tailings: A Memoir, won the 2015 Minnesota Book Award for Creative Nonfiction, and her chapbook of poems, Tanka & Me, was selected for the Mineral Point Chapbook Series. In addition to holding M.F.A.s from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the University of Montana, Kaethe has been the recipient of an Academy of American Poets prize, a Minnesota Arts Board grant, and a Loft Mentor Series award. She teaches at St. Olaf College and lives in Northfield, Minnesota.
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"It wasn’t fire or ice. Wasn’t a virus or global warming or a meteor. Wasn’t an atomic bomb or a tsunami or a sulfurous-smelling ape. It was a Rending, a split. Ninety-five percent of the earth’s population and the vast majority of the animals, food, and goods—gone. We were left with each other and the Piles. Later, the Babies. And we were left without an explanation."
Mira lives in a society/town named Zion that was made from the remnants, the scraps, of what was left after the Rendering. Four years after the end of the world as she knew it, Mira now sorts through the piles - literally piles of things left behind - searching for useful items. When Mira's friend Lana announces her pregnancy, it is a time of hope, but when Lana gives birth to an object, and other women follow suit, Mira decides to make nests for these Babies. This helps the mothers by giving the objects a safe resting place and simultaneously allowing them to release their attachment to the objects. When an outsider called Michael appears in Zion, he changes the dynamics of the community and lures Lana away.
The Rending and the Nest almost begs for a reread, perhaps with a reader's guide, since there is more going on under the surface, or there could be more going on under the surface, than a quick read reveals. "Rending" itself is an odd word choice. It can mean to tear violently, divide, pull apart, split, or to distress with painful feelings, but it is also pointed out in the book that the name shares a connection with the rending, or tearing, of the curtain in the temple at the moment Jesus died. The tearing symbolized, in part (and I'm not a Biblical scholar), that God had moved out of that physical dwelling and was through with that temple and its religious system. Perhaps this rending signifies a finality with the earth and what it was before, thus the people gone and the piles of stuff left scattered about. (And, okay, I may be stretching here looking for some significance, so we'll set this aside.)
What I can say is that the world created by Schwehn is interesting, but enigmatic. We never know what happened or why. And what we do know is puzzling at times. Certainly loved ones are missed. The community of Zion gives people some sense of purpose and belonging, but there is always this conundrum in the background, seeking the ultimate answer when none is given.
It is also beautifully written, for all its inscrutability. The plot, which is slow at first, picks up the pace after a third of the way through. The characters are basically well-developed, but broken in some way. The characters reflect the prismatic nature of humans, good and bad, challenging and comforting, open and closed-off. I liked parts of the novel ravenously, and other parts not-as-much. And, while reading, I kept getting this nagging feeling that I was missing something, that some clue or hint, or monumental reveal was just beyond my grasp.
So, I liked The Rending and the Nest, but I didn't love it. On the other hand I kept thinking I needed that reading guide to uncover what I was missing, because I was sure I was missing something. The novel felt like a puzzle to me and I was missing one vital piece... I need to reread this one someday
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Bloomsbury USA
The Rending and the Nest is a very slow paced book. Schwehn take hers time building the world and main character, Mira. I loved getting intimate details about the world post Rending and Mira as a character, but it took Schwehn almost half the book to accomplish. The synopsis above explains that a man named Michael will arrive thereby creating some plot movement. However, he doesn’t arrive until 41% through the novel. Despite the slow start, I didn’t feel like DNF’ing it. The world and pregnancies were too interesting and shrouded in mystery to put down.
The writing felt overly poetic. It read as if Schwehn was trying her absolute hardest to write as sophisticatedly as possible. The metaphors and similes were jarring and pulled me out of the story rather than flowing smoothly.
I really enjoyed Mira and her best friend, Lana. I was able to connect with them almost immediately. However, the other characters weren’t as well developed or relied on one particular trait to describe them and the way they behaved.
What peaked my interest in this novel the most was The Rending itself. Where did 95% of the population disappeared to? Why did they disappear? Was it random? Were people targeted specifically? None of these questions are answered. There aren’t even hints of an answer within the text. The build up of the mystery of The Rending throughout the novel created suspense and intrigue, but by the end of the novel I was incredibly frustrated with the lack of answers.
Overall, The Rending and the Nest is not for everyone and, apparently, I am not one of those people. It is a unique post-apocalyptic story because of its focus on motherhood, community, and loss, however the story failed to perform after it had caught my attention.