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“Blending family memoir and environmental history, Kendra Atleework conveys a fundamental truth: the places in which we live, live on—sometimes painfully—in us. This is a powerful, beautiful, and urgently important book.”
—Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirement 


Kendra Atleework grew up in Swall Meadows, in the Owens Valley of the Eastern Sierra Nevada, where annual rainfall averages five inches and in drought years measures closer to zero.

Kendra’s parents taught their children to thrive in this beautiful, if harsh, landscape, prone to wildfires, blizzards, and gale-force winds. Above all, they were raised on unconditional love and delight in the natural world. After Kendra’s mother died of a rare autoimmune disease when Kendra was just sixteen, however, her once beloved desert world came to feel empty and hostile, as climate change, drought, and wildfires intensified. The Atleework family fell apart, even as her father tried to keep them together. Kendra escaped to Los Angeles, and then Minneapolis, land of tall trees, full lakes, water everywhere you look. 

But after years of avoiding her troubled hometown, she realized that she needed to come to terms with its past and present and had to go back. Miracle Country is a moving and unforgettable memoir of flight and return, emptiness and bounty, the realities of a harsh and changing climate, and the true meaning of home. For readers of Cheryl Strayed, Terry Tempest Williams, and Rebecca Solnit, this is a breathtaking debut by a remarkable writer.  
 

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Kendra Atleework

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Review quotes

"Drawing parallels between her upbringing and the region's history, [Atleework's] memoir celebrates her home and the region while lovingly portraying her family's eccentricities. Her ability to relay naturalistic majesty in exquisite detail is dynamic yet tender, resulting in captivating storytelling . . . A breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.”
PopMatters

"[A] shimmering memoir . . . A bittersweet tribute to home and family in breathtaking prose that will appeal to lovers of memoirs and history, as well as anyone who enjoys beautifully crafted writing."
Library Journal, starred review

"[A] beautiful debut . . . Atleework’s remarkable prose renders the ordinary wondrous and firmly puts this overlooked region of California onto the map."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"[A] singular, sympathetic memoir of loss and belonging, set in a troubled state that still occupies so many people’s dreams."
Foreword Review, starred review

"Atleework pays tribute to the drought-ridden California desert of her childhood in this gimlet-eyed memoir . . . Nature lovers will immerse themselves in Atleework's vibrant prose and meditative musings."
Booklist

“Can a book be both radiant with light and shadowy as midnight? Miracle Country can. I felt the thrill I once knew reading Annie Dillard for the first time. Kendra Atleework can really write. She flies with burning wings."
—Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels

“Kendra Atleework has written the most beautiful book about California I ever have read.  The author locates the mystery and beauty of her life in the small town of Bishop, on the eastern slope of the Sierra, decades after Los Angeles has stolen the water.  Her poet's prose, on every page, honors the dry land and breathes Nature to life.”
—Richard Rodriguez, author of Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography

Miracle Country is truly some kind of miracle, combining a moving family story with deft, deeply researched history. Written from the crucible of California's water wars, combined with a family story of love and loss in the high desert Eastern Sierra Nevada, Kendra Atleework's book joins the great American accounts of the West, a step beyond Joan Didion, moving from a beloved geography into a jeopardized future.  Kendra Atleework is that rare writer—capable of heart-stopping memoir while performing a work of keen observation and serious history. A work of stunning acuity and candor, essential reading, already a classic narrative.”
Patricia Hampl, author of The Art of the Wasted Day
 
“A soaring homage to California and to the sparsely populated and drought-prone Eastern Sierra, where the author grew up. Blending family memoir and environmental history, Kendra Atleework conveys a fundamental truth: the places in which we live, live on—sometimes painfully—in us. This is a powerful, beautiful, and urgently important book.”
—Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirement 

“This eloquent narrative is both a natural history of the author's home place, a seemingly arid region, and a loving portrait of an extraordinary family. Kendra Atleework has an uncanny wisdom and a deep sense of people and their origins, and she writes like an angel.”
—Charles Baxter, author of There's Something I Want You to Do

Product Details
Categories
Number of pages
320
Publication date
July 14, 2020
ISBN
9781643750552