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DAREDEVILS by Shawn Vestal is Penguin Random House’s "Penguin Pick" for next spring. The Penguin side chooses just two titles per season to highlight, and this title is one!
DAREDEVILS, a novel by PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize-winner Shawn Vestal. Penguin Press will publish April 2016.
About the book: Shawn Vestal’s gripping new novel opens in the mid ‘70s in the fundamentalist Mormon community of Short Creek, Arizona, where 15-year-old Loretta, the high-spirited and rebellious youngest child of traditional parents, is on the verge of being forced into a plural marriage with a town elder. To avoid a life of piousness and deprivation—and worse—Loretta knows she must escape into the glamorous future she has always imagined for herself; yet, at a loss to envision a path to freedom, she hesitates—and as the days pass, her dream recedes into a seemingly unattainable future. From the moment Jason Harder glimpses Loretta, he becomes consumed with the desire to rescue his uncle’s child bride and run away with her, leaving behind the suffocating world of his mainstream Mormon childhood. Joined by Jason’s best friend Boyd, a half-Shoshone kid with his own reasons for wanting to put his life behind him, the teenagers embark on an adventure involving a cross-country road trip and a night of drunken revelry with Jason’s all-time hero, Evel Knievel, the boldest daredevil of them all. But reality soon overtakes fantasy, and Jason realizes that Loretta is more complicated—and human—than his gauzy adolescent vision of her allowed. Meanwhile, Loretta’s absence has been discovered, and what began as a giddy joyride soon morphs into a desperate escape.
About the book: Shawn Vestal’s Godforsaken Idaho won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, was named an “Outstanding Collection” by the Story Prize, and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Stories from the collection were published in McSweeney’s, Tin House, American Short Fiction, The Southern Review, and Ecotone; selected for inclusion in The Pushcart Prize XXXIX, Best American Fantasy 3 (edited by Kevin Brockmeier); and named distinguished stories in Best American Short Stories (2009 and 2011). Vestal lives in Spokane, where he is a reporter and columnist for the Spokesman-Review. www.shawnvestal.com
Praise for Shawn Vestal’s Godforsaken Idaho:
“Shawn Vestal’s Godforsaken Idaho ranges not only across time but across genres—historical fiction, fantasy, contemporary realism—all executed with the sure hand of a versatile and gifted writer. The stories in this debut collection deal in religious and spiritual conundrums; perhaps more impressively, they dare to charge into the well-trodden arena of the hapless male and make that subject fresh again. In exposing the shaggy souls of his beleaguered central characters, Vestal's eye is as sharp for their goodness as for their weakness; he never lets anyone off the hook, but he maintains, and generates, compassion for the way we bumble through our lives. These nine stories aren't just moving, they're also very funny—funny for their pathos, in other words, funny for all the right reasons. Vestal doesn’t go for the cheap laugh but for the sustained comedy of people trying and failing, and trying again. And so it is with real pleasure that the judges award this year’s PEN/Bingham prize to Shawn Vestal's Godforsaken Idaho.” – Citation for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize. Judges were Jonathan Dee, Charles Bock, Fiona Maazel, and Karen Shepard.
“Shutter your windows—Godforsaken Idaho is an awesome storm of history, grit, and revelatory imagination. These stories take huge risks and simply do not falter. Shawn Vestal has set out to reimagine the American West, and he’s done so with the soulful, single-minded purpose of a half-mad pioneer.” – Patrick Somerville, author of This Bright River and The Cradle
“Godforsaken Idaho mixes the hardpan realism of Richard Ford’s Rock Springs with the dreadful wonder of Dan Chaon’s best stories. In the lyrical beauty of his sentences, in the brutal choices his characters must make, and in the heartbreaking landscape itself, Shawn Vestal finds startling moments of grace and unexpected redemption.” – Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men
“Shawn Vestal’s Godforsaken Idaho is a wickedly funny, surprisingly profound collection. These nine stories of prophets and parents, of doppelgangers and pocket dogs, form a thrilling introduction to one of the wryest, most inventive new voices in fiction.” – Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins
“Three months in, 2013 proves itself to be a rich one for novels and short fiction alike, particularly for authors making their debut. The short story is undergoing a renaissance, and new voices abound—in the form of back-country birdwatchers, tennis champs, aspiring comedians, dueling writers, and grand schemers. Godforsaken Idaho lies somewhere between the classically chiseled narratives of Richard Ford’s Rock Springs, the satiristic imagination of George Saunders, and the comic stylings of The Book of Mormon. In Shawn Vestal’s hands, it’s a place where wooden bats wear deep pockmarks from being used to hit rocks instead of baseballs. Where everyone seems to be down to their last seven dollars, and the only art on the walls is the bearded man praying over a loaf of bread. Beneath those frontiers is an inventive exploration of the cultural influence of religion. Whether ironically envisioning an afterlife where the menu consists of evocative meals dating back to the Middle Ages, or chronicling the relentless pursuit of a follower escaping from the fold, Vestal’s dark, often very funny, and deeply probing stories have one foot in God-fearing Mormon country and another in godforsaken characters-at-the-end-of-their-rope realism.” – Vogue.com, Spring Breakout: Nine Debut Fictions Make a Strong Showing for the Season by Rebecca Bengal
“A provocative and revelatory debut, filled with stories about losing faith and trying (often in vain) to find purpose, mainly set amid the sparsely populated Mormon country of the rugged Northwest.” – Kirkus, starred review
“I cracked open the collection by Shawn Vestal and found a short story called ‘Winter Elders,’ which grabbed me from the opening line: “They materialized with the first snow.”…This is a tale of missionary work from the perspective of the target. And it is a dark tale. It’s also psychologically astute and elegantly written, like much of Vestal’s book.” – David Haglund, Slate
“Shawn Vestal's short story collection Godforsaken Idaho is violent, full of dreamy ache. Whether it is celestial beings, father-son criminal duos, or murderous missionaries, Vestal draws vulnerable, beautifully bruised yet resilient characters.” – Interview
“From lustful country boys who plot against the tiny dogs carried around by beautiful out-of-town women (lapdogs, the narrator explains, are “wrong” because they make “us feel defensive about our whole lives”) to two Mormons out to bring a sinner back into the fold, Vestal cracks open the dry, dusty ground and lets the weirdness spill out. It's savage and apocalyptic and endlessly funny.” – The Stranger
“Vestal's anti-heroes may be rascals and lost causes, but they have a canny insight, humor and wisdom that I found irresistible.” – The Oregonian
“[A] darkly provocative story collection. Throughout these well-crafted stories, Vestal’s prose captures the gritty poignancy of western life.” – Seattle Times
“Provocative, gritty, and highly imaginative, the stories in Shawn Vestal's Godforsaken Idaho form an impressive debut collection.” – Largehearted Boy
“The stories in Godforsaken Idaho are sprightful and imaginative, quirky, at times odd, employing a modern register that places them firmly within the canon of contemporary American literary fiction.” – Bloom
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