Prairie Silence by Melanie Hoffert is part coming-of-age story and part coming-out story. The book chronicles Hoffert's journey back home to North Dakota, where she explores both the past and the present in order to reconcile sexuality, religion, love, and family.
The book intertwines Hoffert's current life with her memories of the past growing up on a North Dakota farm. She gives a name to this confrontation of the past, Prairie Silence, which she describes: "Prairie Silence is -- I have come to believe -- the way that people of the prairie mirror the land with their sturdy, hardworking, fruitful and quiet dispositions. They are committed to each other like the soil is committed to the crop. They are uncomplaining in the way the land dutifully recovers after tornadoes, droughts, and floods destroy a season's harvest. They are humble and quiet, like white prairie grass in the wind. They swallow their problems, their fears, their shames, and their secrets -- figuring that nature will take care of everything, somehow or other. That is, after all, how it works with the crops. And once a silence has taken hold, whatever it is, it is hard to uproot." It's this confrontation that is the very conflict in the book. How does one confront a place that doesn't wish to speak out loud?
Hoffert doesn't really find any answers, but she seems to find peace. And part of this peace is found in the landscape that she describes so beautifully, a world that can deliver stunning sunsets that defy literary clichés or winter storms that seemingly blur the world in wind and white. Having never been to the Dakotas, Hoffert's book didn't really deliver me to the physical place, but to other books that also celebrate the Dakota landscape, including Dakota by Kathleen Norris and The Horizontal World by Debra Marquart. It's a beautiful book about reconciliations with memory and place and home.
In many ways, I am more of a reader than a writer. This page will serve as a home for my informal reviews of what I've been reading.