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Small-town secrets loom large in this spellbinding rural noir about the aftershocks of crime and trauma that shake a Nebraskan town In a dusty town in Nebraska’s rugged sandhills, weary sheriff’s deputy Harley Jensen patrols the streets at night, on the lookout for something—anything—out of the ordinary. It’s July 1979, and the heat is making people ornery, restless. That a Small-town secrets loom large in this spellbinding rural noir about the aftershocks of crime and trauma that shake a Nebraskan town In a dusty town in Nebraska’s rugged sandhills, weary sheriff’s deputy Harley Jensen patrols the streets at night, on the lookout for something—anything—out of the ordinary. It’s July 1979, and the heat is making people ornery, restless. That and the Reddick family patriarch has decided, decades after authorities ended the search for his murdered boy’s body, to lay a headstone. Instead of bringing closure, this decision is the spark that threatens to set Pickard County ablaze. On the fateful night of the memorial service, Harley tails the youngest Reddick and town miscreant, Paul, through the abandoned farms and homes of their run-down town. The pursuit puts Harley in the path of Pam Reddick, a restless young woman looking for escape, bent on cutting the ties of motherhood and marriage. Filled with desperate frustration, Pam is drawn to Harley’s dark history, not unlike that of her husband, Rick—a man raised in the wreckage of a brother’s violent death and a mother’s hardened fury. Unfolding over six tense days, Pickard County Atlas sets Harley and the Reddicks on a collision course—propelling them toward an incendiary moment that will either redeem or end them. Engrossing, darkly funny, and real, Chris Harding Thorton’s debut rings with authenticity and a nuanced sense of place even as it hums with menace, introducing an astonishing new voice in suspense.


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Small-town secrets loom large in this spellbinding rural noir about the aftershocks of crime and trauma that shake a Nebraskan town In a dusty town in Nebraska’s rugged sandhills, weary sheriff’s deputy Harley Jensen patrols the streets at night, on the lookout for something—anything—out of the ordinary. It’s July 1979, and the heat is making people ornery, restless. That a Small-town secrets loom large in this spellbinding rural noir about the aftershocks of crime and trauma that shake a Nebraskan town In a dusty town in Nebraska’s rugged sandhills, weary sheriff’s deputy Harley Jensen patrols the streets at night, on the lookout for something—anything—out of the ordinary. It’s July 1979, and the heat is making people ornery, restless. That and the Reddick family patriarch has decided, decades after authorities ended the search for his murdered boy’s body, to lay a headstone. Instead of bringing closure, this decision is the spark that threatens to set Pickard County ablaze. On the fateful night of the memorial service, Harley tails the youngest Reddick and town miscreant, Paul, through the abandoned farms and homes of their run-down town. The pursuit puts Harley in the path of Pam Reddick, a restless young woman looking for escape, bent on cutting the ties of motherhood and marriage. Filled with desperate frustration, Pam is drawn to Harley’s dark history, not unlike that of her husband, Rick—a man raised in the wreckage of a brother’s violent death and a mother’s hardened fury. Unfolding over six tense days, Pickard County Atlas sets Harley and the Reddicks on a collision course—propelling them toward an incendiary moment that will either redeem or end them. Engrossing, darkly funny, and real, Chris Harding Thorton’s debut rings with authenticity and a nuanced sense of place even as it hums with menace, introducing an astonishing new voice in suspense.

30 review for Pickard County Atlas

  1. 4 out of 5

    Fran

    "Pickard County's dirt was erratic as the weather...it'd once drawn people accustomed to life on cusps. Farm kids, immigrants, children of freed slaves. They'd come a century before for cheap railroad land or cheaper homestead tracts...". In 1978 Nebraska, Pickard County deputy sheriff Harley Jensen, choosing to work the night shift, patrolled the streets of the run down town and the outlying abandoned fields and farmhouses, looking for anything out of the ordinary. Imagine a call to investigate "Pickard County's dirt was erratic as the weather...it'd once drawn people accustomed to life on cusps. Farm kids, immigrants, children of freed slaves. They'd come a century before for cheap railroad land or cheaper homestead tracts...". In 1978 Nebraska, Pickard County deputy sheriff Harley Jensen, choosing to work the night shift, patrolled the streets of the run down town and the outlying abandoned fields and farmhouses, looking for anything out of the ordinary. Imagine a call to investigate a complaint about an unmowed lawn or a stolen gas can. This night was different. Why was Paul Reddick parked in his F-450 truck at Harley Jensen's abandoned farmhouse? "Harley saw his shadow was...swallowed by the house that loomed at his back...". It happened in 1938. Dinner prepared. The table set. Tragedy struck. By working nights, Harley could avoid any emotional ties. When his shift ended, he returned to his empty abode. In 1960, seven year old Dell Reddick Junior was murdered. The killer fessed up but never revealed the location of Dell Junior's body. How could the Reddick family have closure? Mother Virginia Reddick, became a shut-in left with two young boys. Dell Senior, moved out but continued to support the young family. Out of the blue, Dell Senior decided to lay a headstone. "A funeral with no body...no death certificate eighteen years late". "Reddicks would be Reddicks...Virginia had the sense to cut ties and disappear". Youngest son Paul, "had the hostile indifference of a person who valued nothing...he needs to get his shit together". Pam Reinhardt had married Rick Reddick. They lived in a broken down trailer. "Every time she tried to say what little they had was one minor inconvenience away from disaster...one blown tire away from living in a cardboard box, he brought up Dell Junior". "Be glad you don't have a dead missing kid like my parents". A string of strange events occur at empty farmhouses. Still warm cigarette butts, slightly chilled Cutty Sark, a warm pot belly stove with pieces of burnt clothing. A burglary was committed during a funeral. The deceased's clothing stolen including his underwear! Glen Cox, sheriff cautions Harley, "Don't go jumping straight to Reddick. You can't keep letting that kid get under your skin". "Pickard County Atlas" by Chris Harding Thornton is a gritty, debut mystery delving into the lifelong effects of trauma and crime. The characters, both primary and secondary, are well fleshed out. The read was gripping and would have been greatly enhanced by a map of the town and its outlying fields and farmhouses. Thank you Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    So many empty houses fill these dusty streets in this small town in Nebraska. People have left, some have died and those that remain harbor unimaginable griefs. Some are living desperate lives that they wish they could escape, some live on the best they are able. Harley, is the law in this town and his past haunts him still, as does the old house where once his family lived. But sometimes there is an event, a spark that sets unforseen things in motion. That's what happens here. A slow burning rur So many empty houses fill these dusty streets in this small town in Nebraska. People have left, some have died and those that remain harbor unimaginable griefs. Some are living desperate lives that they wish they could escape, some live on the best they are able. Harley, is the law in this town and his past haunts him still, as does the old house where once his family lived. But sometimes there is an event, a spark that sets unforseen things in motion. That's what happens here. A slow burning rural noir. A first book that is well thought out and brilliantly executed. Things happen that we don't quite understand the significance of, but the tension is there and as more is revealed the tension mounts. The slow burning turns into to a blazing end. A young man loses his bearings and two women make very different decisions for their futures. I expect more brilliant renderings from this author, she is a true talent. If you enjoyed Bull Mountain, I think you'll enjoy this. It doesn't have the same amount of violence, actually very little as it is more psychological than graphic. The feel though, for me, was similar. ARC from Edelweiss

  3. 4 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    What a way to start off the new year! Chris Harding Thornton has written one of those debut novels, the sort that makes an author reluctant to publish a second book, lest it fail to live up to the first. Lucky me, I read it free; thanks go to Net Galley and Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. It’s for sale tomorrow, and those that love excellent working class fiction should get a copy right away. The setting is rural Nebraska, for a single week in 1978. It’s one of those tiny towns where not only does e What a way to start off the new year! Chris Harding Thornton has written one of those debut novels, the sort that makes an author reluctant to publish a second book, lest it fail to live up to the first. Lucky me, I read it free; thanks go to Net Galley and Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. It’s for sale tomorrow, and those that love excellent working class fiction should get a copy right away. The setting is rural Nebraska, for a single week in 1978. It’s one of those tiny towns where not only does everyone know everyone else, but also just about every single thing that has happened in the lives of everyone else. Or at least they think they do; gossip takes on a life of its own. We have three protagonists, and their points of view alternate, always in the third person omniscient. Harley Jensen, the deputy sheriff, opens the story; then we meet Pam Reddick, a miserable, trapped, 24 year old housewife living in a singlewide trailer with her baby and a husband who’s always working; and Rick, the man Pam is married to, who works for his father, buying and renovating old mobile homes. Now there’s a job for you. Both of the men, Harley and Rick, are leading lives of avoidance. As a child, Harley found his mother on the kitchen floor after she blew her own face away with a shotgun. The table was set, and the gravy was just beginning to form a skin on top. Gravy boat; bare, dirty feet facing the door after she fell over; cane bottom chair, shotgun, and…yeah. So now Harley is middle aged, single, childless; he maintains a careful distance emotionally from everyone. He does his job, but he’s no Joe Friday. He maintains a stoic, lowkey demeanor most of the time, putting one foot in front of the other, so that people won’t look at him with pity, which is intolerable. "People evidently needed that. They needed to know that you could overcome a thing like what happened here and keep going. That or you were just broken—more broken than they’d ever be. That worked fine, too. The one thing they couldn’t abide was that you just lived with it. You drank and slept and did laundry with it. You waited at the DMV and clocked in and out with it." The opening scene in which we meet Harley finds him driving his usual patrol, eager to pass the last homestead he routinely checks for prowlers, vandals, or partiers. It is his parents’ home, now derelict and unsaleable. He prefers to zip past it, but he can’t today because there’s a truck down there. Turns out to be Paul Reddick, the wily, sociopathic brother of Rick, whom we’ve yet to meet. This scene is as tense and still as the air right before the tornado hits. It’s suffused with dread, and we don’t fully understand why yet. It sets the tone for the rest of the story. Pam Reddick is too young to be so bitter, but it isn’t stopping her. She doesn’t love her husband, and if she ever did, we don’t see evidence of it. They are married because of Anna, their now-three-year-old daughter. This fact gives me pause, since Roe v. Wade came down in 1973; abortion is legal. But then I realize, first, that the Supreme Court made a ruling, but it didn’t furnish clinics, and an out-of-the-way place like Pickard County may never have had access. Pam and Rick have so little money that a trip to the nearest clinic and the payment for the procedure was about as likely as an all expense paid trip to Europe. No, she’d have that baby all right. And she has. But she has no enthusiasm for parenting or her daughter, who looks just like her daddy. Pam goes through the barest motions of motherhood, and only that much because her mother and her mother’s friends always seem to be watching. Rick, on the other hand, is a guy you can’t help but feel sorry for. The entire Reddick family is a mess. Their father, who is a shyster, has more or less abandoned their mother, who has mental health problems, the severity of which depends on who is talking. The whole town knows about the night when, following the murder of her eldest son, she was seen in the backyard, stark naked, burning clothing in a barrel. His younger brother, Paul, whom we met earlier with Harley, uses street drugs and steals his mother’s prescriptions; he’s been in and out of trouble most of his life. Worse still, perhaps, is the fact—and it isn’t spelled out for us, but as the narrative unfolds, it becomes evident—that Paul is smarter than Rick. Nobody tells us Rick is stupid; rather, his inner monologue fixates on the mundane and tends to turn in circles. And here, we can see also that poor Rick loves Pam and Anna deeply, and considers them the very best part of his young life; he counsels Paul to settle down, find someone like Pam so that he can have a good life, too. And while Rick knows that Pam is unhappy, he tells himself that she’s mad about nothing, that she’ll settle down. He’s working hard, and we can see that; the guy is a slob, but he’s industrious, on his back in the dirt ripping fiberglass out of an old trailer, stripping wallpaper, replacing pipes. And when he goes home, exhausted and reeking, his feet are sore and itching, and the thing he finds most soothing, and which makes Pam crazy, is rubbing his feet on the radiator until pieces of dead skin come off in strips, which he of course doesn’t clean up. At this point, I’m ready to get my purse out and give Pam some get-away cash. I couldn’t live that way, either. The worst of it is that Rick is already doing his very best. The plot unfolds like a burning tumbleweed descending a dry hillside, and it is masterfully written. Much of its brilliance lies in what is not said. There are probably half a dozen themes that bear study, for those so inclined. The violence and poverty are obvious, but more insidious is the way this county chews up the women that live there. Another admirable aspect of the narrative is the restraint with which cultural artifacts are placed. We aren’t barraged with the headlines of 1978, or its music or movie actors. Thornton doesn’t take cheap shortcuts. Yet there are occasional subtle reminders: the television’s rabbit ears that have to be adjusted to get a decent picture; the Corelle casserole dish. So, is this book worth your hard-earned money? If you haven’t figured that out by now, you’re no brighter than poor Rick. Go get this book now. Your own troubles will all look smaller when you’re done.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    3.5 stars In the summer of 1978 the Reddick family has been grieving the loss of seven-year-old Dell Jr. for 18 years. His mama Virginia has never gotten over the fact that his body was never found and is upset to learn her estranged husband has finally filed paperwork to declare him legally dead and held a service with no body to lay to rest. Dell Jr.’s brothers, Rick and Paul, have lived their lives in the shadow his absence has cast. Now Virginia has left without a word and Paul claims he’s not 3.5 stars In the summer of 1978 the Reddick family has been grieving the loss of seven-year-old Dell Jr. for 18 years. His mama Virginia has never gotten over the fact that his body was never found and is upset to learn her estranged husband has finally filed paperwork to declare him legally dead and held a service with no body to lay to rest. Dell Jr.’s brothers, Rick and Paul, have lived their lives in the shadow his absence has cast. Now Virginia has left without a word and Paul claims he’s not worried; she’s just out looking for Dell Jr.’s body. Meanwhile, Rick is working to keep food on the table for his family. His wife Pam is unhappy with the choices she’s made and is struggling with her marriage, motherhood, and lack of options. Just down the road, Pickard County deputy Harley Jensen is investigating some strange incidents in their small town. Abandoned farmhouses are going up in flames, homes are being broken in to during funerals and random items stolen. Jensen himself knows about loss; his mama took her own life when he was just a kid. Something about the Reddicks, Paul in particular, crawls under his skin and he’s focused on catching him in the act. However, he loses his focus when he meets Pam for the first time, setting off a chain of events that began long before the summer of ’78. A fine piece of rural noir, Pickard County Atlas has a strong cast of characters and this gripping story gives readers a look into the effects of trauma in a small Nebraska town. I recommend this book to readers who enjoy crime, grit lit / rural noir, and family dramas. Thanks to NetGalley and FSGxMCD for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Pickard County Atlas is scheduled for release on January 5, 2021. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Pickard County Atlas is a great title for this debut by a very gifted writer. Set in a small town with all the interwoven histories simmering very close to the surface, the memory of the murder of a seven-year-old boy 18 years earlier causes emotions to erupt. Gotta say that for a relatively small place, there is a lot of toxicity going on here. Chris Thornton's powers of description are acute, life in a trailer park is brought vividly to life. I look forward to what comes next. Pickard County Atlas is a great title for this debut by a very gifted writer. Set in a small town with all the interwoven histories simmering very close to the surface, the memory of the murder of a seven-year-old boy 18 years earlier causes emotions to erupt. Gotta say that for a relatively small place, there is a lot of toxicity going on here. Chris Thornton's powers of description are acute, life in a trailer park is brought vividly to life. I look forward to what comes next.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Glen

    I won this book in a goodreads drawing. In a dying, isolated part of Nebraska, nothing much happens, except a kid was killed some years ago, affecting everyone in the town. When a corpse's clothes are stolen during a funeral, it might lead back to the murder. Fairly good rural noir. I won this book in a goodreads drawing. In a dying, isolated part of Nebraska, nothing much happens, except a kid was killed some years ago, affecting everyone in the town. When a corpse's clothes are stolen during a funeral, it might lead back to the murder. Fairly good rural noir.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert Intriago

    The main theme of this is: wrong assumptions have consequences. In a small town in Nebraska populated by abandoned houses and trailers hides a secret. Deputy Sheriff Harley patrols the streets at night as old houses are being burned and a rash of burglaries are happening. Is he trying to enforce the law or looking to exact some kind of payback? Meanwhile Pam is unhappy and trying to find a way out. The writing and atmosphere of this story is more akin to Southern noir and writers like Panowich, The main theme of this is: wrong assumptions have consequences. In a small town in Nebraska populated by abandoned houses and trailers hides a secret. Deputy Sheriff Harley patrols the streets at night as old houses are being burned and a rash of burglaries are happening. Is he trying to enforce the law or looking to exact some kind of payback? Meanwhile Pam is unhappy and trying to find a way out. The writing and atmosphere of this story is more akin to Southern noir and writers like Panowich, Brown and Joy. A well written book with some wonderful characters, especially Pam.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Mystery & Thriller

    PICKARD COUNTY ATLAS was the last book I picked up to read in 2020 and the first I finished in 2021. It was a terrific way to end one year and begin a new one. The quality of the plotting and writing are equally high, and I was thrilled to discover Chris Harding Thornton, who is now on my must-read list. Thornton is, by her own description, a seventh-generation Nebraskan whose day gig is a professorship at the University of Nebraska, the institution where she acquired her PhD. This is her debut n PICKARD COUNTY ATLAS was the last book I picked up to read in 2020 and the first I finished in 2021. It was a terrific way to end one year and begin a new one. The quality of the plotting and writing are equally high, and I was thrilled to discover Chris Harding Thornton, who is now on my must-read list. Thornton is, by her own description, a seventh-generation Nebraskan whose day gig is a professorship at the University of Nebraska, the institution where she acquired her PhD. This is her debut novel (she also has published a very limited collection of short stories), and the book’s 1978 Nebraska setting is as far removed from the ivy halls of academia as might be possible. The Pickard County of the title is a fictional but all-too-real location where hardscrabble poverty is a mind-numbing reality for many. As a result, the king of the hill is Dell Reddick, whose family business is repairing or repurposing house trailers, depending in large part on their condition. He is aided by his sons, Rick and Paul. The memory of their deceased older brother hangs over the family and casts a dark, tragic shadow. Dell Jr. was killed when he was seven years old by a disturbed individual who readily confessed to what he had done. The problem is that he never told anyone what he did with the boy’s corpse. As the novel begins, Dell is conducting a funeral for his dead son some 17 years later, a ceremony without a body. Rather than providing closure, the event further tears open emotional wounds that have never healed, particularly for Virginia, Dell Jr.’s mother. Rick, meanwhile, seems too capable of doing more than working at substandard wages for his father but does not have the fortitude to do so. This is a situation that chafes at his wife, Pam, who vaguely envisions a life far away from her parents, her husband and their three-year-old daughter. Harley Jensen, the local deputy sheriff, has been a native of Pickard County for almost five decades and is well-settled into his 12-to-14-hour nightshifts other than for the occasional run-in with Paul Reddick, a lost soul who seems to be at or near whatever trouble occurs in the county. When Virginia goes missing after the funeral, Harley’s patrols become more intense, which leads him to a chance encounter with Pam, whose restless nighttime wanderings will cause a chain reaction of consequences beginning in her own home and radiating outward. One can foresee some but not all of the results, which continue to play out through the book’s last page and beyond. Thornton is reportedly working on a second novel, and it cannot come soon enough for me. My copy of this one is well-highlighted over her numerous and wonderful turns of phrase and descriptions, which beg to be reread until her next offering appears. There certainly seems to be enough potential for additional tales and trouble in her fictional Nebraska county to fill several more books. Anyone who reads PICKARD COUNTY ATLAS will want to see if that is true. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Pickard County Atlas by Chris Harding Thornton unfolds during a July 1978 summer in rural Nebraska and is told in alternating chapters featuring a handful of primary characters. As the story is told, each character, haunted by their past, seems to be attempting to seek respite, redemption, or eradication from their own ghosts—whether or not they have been earned through faults of their own. Each of these characters, from a worn-down county deputy to a roaming disenchanted young wife and mother, t Pickard County Atlas by Chris Harding Thornton unfolds during a July 1978 summer in rural Nebraska and is told in alternating chapters featuring a handful of primary characters. As the story is told, each character, haunted by their past, seems to be attempting to seek respite, redemption, or eradication from their own ghosts—whether or not they have been earned through faults of their own. Each of these characters, from a worn-down county deputy to a roaming disenchanted young wife and mother, to a family with a violent past, exists in a small county where one small act or encounter may lead to the possibility of further violence and turmoil. Pickard County Atlas could be referred to as “Country Noir,” however, the novel is not an extremely dark novel, but instead a truthful examination of how people deal with such ghosts and haunts of their past. This review of Pickard County Atlas has been one of the more difficult I have written. The reason for this is the less you the reader knows about the novel beforehand, the more enhanced the writing and story will be. The descriptive writing in this debut novel is richly exquisite. Descriptions of simple acts, such as how time and distance can be measured by the click of an odometer digit or the use of a metal, flip-top cigarette lighter, found throughout the novel are assembled in almost poetic rhythm, with not a wasted, lost, or overused word. While reading this novel, the author evokes black and white mental imagery similar to that found in films such as Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show. Mental imagery such as dilapidated, empty buildings, contrails of dust caused by tires on a gravel road, and people hewed rough and ragged by a tough life. In your mind, while reading this novel you could hear crickets at night, smell the drying vegetation and imagine the brightness of stars at night. Pickard County Atlas is highly recommended to readers who enjoy novels described as “Country Noir” and by readers fond of the writings of authors like Larry Brown. This review was originally published at MysteryandSuspense.com.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lesa

    Ithought Laura McHugh’s The Wolf Wants In was a dark, grim book. Chris Harding Thornton’s debut, Pickard County Atlas, has that beat. The story, set in north-central Nebraska, has a foreboding atmosphere, and one of the most disturbing endings I’ve read in a book. However, fans of rural noir might want to pick it up. Deputy Harley Jensen knows every tract of land and house on his nightly patrols in Pickard County. He only varies his routine if he stops by the house where his mother killed herself Ithought Laura McHugh’s The Wolf Wants In was a dark, grim book. Chris Harding Thornton’s debut, Pickard County Atlas, has that beat. The story, set in north-central Nebraska, has a foreboding atmosphere, and one of the most disturbing endings I’ve read in a book. However, fans of rural noir might want to pick it up. Deputy Harley Jensen knows every tract of land and house on his nightly patrols in Pickard County. He only varies his routine if he stops by the house where his mother killed herself with a shotgun. Or, if one of the dilapidated houses in the county catches fire, he goes to the scene. Jensen suspects Paul Reddick. The Reddicks haven’t been right since Dell, Jr. was killed eighteen years earlier. The boy was seven, and his body was never found. Dell, Sr. finally put a stone on an empty plot in the cemetery. Mrs. Reddick has been a ghost in the community, rumored to be crazy. Paul has been in trouble or an instigator, and Harley blames every little incident on him. His brother, Rick, is married to a woman he loves, Pam, and has a three-year-old daughter, Anna. But, Pam Reddick is miserable, and she just wants out – out of the shabby trailer they live in, out of her marriage, out of her responsibilities as a mother. And, she’s ready to bolt until her own mother tells her she’s stuck for the next fifteen years, that Anna didn’t ask for life. She’s Pam’s responsibility until she turns eighteen. This only makes Pam more desperate to run from all the Reddicks. Deputy Harley Jensen and the Reddicks are on a collision course. With strange thefts and house fires in the county, and a sheriff’s department that’s short-handed, Jensen is on patrol more than usual. The final confrontation is unforgettable, and just as grim as the rest of the story. At times, rural noir, a grim story set in America’s Heartland, might be just what you’re looking for. Check out Pickard County Atlas.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jim Thomsen

    "There’d been a time when everything about Rick she now couldn’t see or stand drew her in. That look of his that wrung her out—yearning and sadness all tangled together. It had a mystique, she guessed. About five months into being pregnant, she remembered where she’d seen that look. In a cat out at her folks’ barn who’d gotten into some antifreeze." Some fine atmospheric writing here, but not a lot else, at least not in my eyes. The stakes seem low, the characters seem gauzy (one exception is Pam "There’d been a time when everything about Rick she now couldn’t see or stand drew her in. That look of his that wrung her out—yearning and sadness all tangled together. It had a mystique, she guessed. About five months into being pregnant, she remembered where she’d seen that look. In a cat out at her folks’ barn who’d gotten into some antifreeze." Some fine atmospheric writing here, but not a lot else, at least not in my eyes. The stakes seem low, the characters seem gauzy (one exception is Pam, the young mom and wife who neither wants to be a mom or a wife, but can't seem to summon quite enough will to walk away from either her husband or her child despite an increasing sense of desperation), and the story seems to chug along in a choppy second gear toward a flat climax, never achieving the liftoff that its opening confrontations suggest. This is the sort of MFA-written novel that demonstrates why some people detest MFA writing, with its self-consciously workshoppy, professor-pleasing prose. That's not to say the prose is bad, or the sentence structural subpar, but it does have a too-fussed-over quality that tests the reader's patience even as they're lulled in by the thick atmospherics of small-town Nebraska, which in PICKARD COUNTY ATLAS seems to be made up mostly of abandoned homes that a handful of people can't seem to leave alone for reasons that never quite become clear. PICKARD COUNTY ATLAS isn't a bad novel by any means. It 's just missing something that would infuse it and its characters with life. Everything here is a little too much like its arid, neglected, fallow country. A little of that goes a long way. A full-length novel of it goes too far. The way trying to get somewhere far off in second gear must feel.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    “The box fan in the trailer window moved the morning air but didn’t cool it. Pam was being cooked. She was being cooked like those hobos her mother once told her had roasted in a freight car”. I found this to be a powerful novel, authentically depicting characters living on the edge in rural Nebraska, “one blown tire from living in a cardboard box”. It’s much more than a story about people trapped in a cycle of poverty, but the setting defines the lives and actions of the characters. I thought th “The box fan in the trailer window moved the morning air but didn’t cool it. Pam was being cooked. She was being cooked like those hobos her mother once told her had roasted in a freight car”. I found this to be a powerful novel, authentically depicting characters living on the edge in rural Nebraska, “one blown tire from living in a cardboard box”. It’s much more than a story about people trapped in a cycle of poverty, but the setting defines the lives and actions of the characters. I thought the writing was clear and honest, details earlier in the book would re-emerge in intriguing ways tying together different aspects of the plot. There is no question in my mind that the author is writing about what she knows giving the reader both a good story and some genuine understanding about the struggle faced by people who are living a day to day existence.

  13. 5 out of 5

    KarenK

    I received this from Netgalley.com. "Unfolding over six tense days, Harley Jensen and the Reddick Brothers are on a collision course—propelling them toward an incendiary moment that will either redeem or end them." Debut novel.. Good book! Dark, gritty, humorous. 4☆ I received this from Netgalley.com. "Unfolding over six tense days, Harley Jensen and the Reddick Brothers are on a collision course—propelling them toward an incendiary moment that will either redeem or end them." Debut novel.. Good book! Dark, gritty, humorous. 4☆

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susan Tunis

    Everything about this debut novel is so well done. It is beautifully written, the rare "literary" thriller. Though, thriller might be stretching the truth. This is less a page-turner than a thoughtful, slow-motion, character-driven tragedy. Set in rural Nebraska, circa 1978, Thornton does a beautiful job painting the time and place, never once resorting to the easy cliche. Despite my admiration of this novel, I can't honestly say it was an enjoyable read. It's peopled with characters living sord Everything about this debut novel is so well done. It is beautifully written, the rare "literary" thriller. Though, thriller might be stretching the truth. This is less a page-turner than a thoughtful, slow-motion, character-driven tragedy. Set in rural Nebraska, circa 1978, Thornton does a beautiful job painting the time and place, never once resorting to the easy cliche. Despite my admiration of this novel, I can't honestly say it was an enjoyable read. It's peopled with characters living sordid lives of quiet desperation. It is a testament to the author's skill how difficult it was to spend time with them.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Mcvicker

    This book was recommended by a former neighbor from my childhood who is also listed in the author’s acknowledgments. (Hi Janice!) I give this book a solid 4 stars. Great story development and the effects of trauma were clearly captured. However, some of the writing felt forced, like for a class or for a professor’s sake. That made it bulky and a bit tiresome at times. But the plot was engrossing and well developed. Having a map of the area would have enhanced the experience a great deal as well!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mysticpt

    There is a lot of good writing contained in this debut by the author. This is some rural Noir with lots of mood and atmosphere and characters moving through the dead of night chasing arsonists, criminals, ghosts and the past. I'll definitely keep an eye out for what Chris Harding Thornton writes next and hopefully it will have a little more story as that was the only thing lacking from this, and keeping it from being 4 stars or higher. so 3 + stars for this debut with some great writing and chara There is a lot of good writing contained in this debut by the author. This is some rural Noir with lots of mood and atmosphere and characters moving through the dead of night chasing arsonists, criminals, ghosts and the past. I'll definitely keep an eye out for what Chris Harding Thornton writes next and hopefully it will have a little more story as that was the only thing lacking from this, and keeping it from being 4 stars or higher. so 3 + stars for this debut with some great writing and characters just not enough story for me.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Zach Croll

    “Pickard County Atlas” is Chris Harding Thornton’s debut novel, a dark thriller that kept me guessing through every rundown farmstead. The characters in this small Nebraska town come to life, each more hapless than the next. Throughout the novel, I couldn’t decide who to root for, so I was drawn to the lifelike, abandoned farmsteads that have “property lines like faded scars.” Each place is in its own state of disrepair, much like the townsfolk. I don’t think it’s an accident that Thornton gives “Pickard County Atlas” is Chris Harding Thornton’s debut novel, a dark thriller that kept me guessing through every rundown farmstead. The characters in this small Nebraska town come to life, each more hapless than the next. Throughout the novel, I couldn’t decide who to root for, so I was drawn to the lifelike, abandoned farmsteads that have “property lines like faded scars.” Each place is in its own state of disrepair, much like the townsfolk. I don’t think it’s an accident that Thornton gives these old places lifelike qualities; the abandoned homes with names like Lucas, Knudson, and Jensen are old and tired; they yawn, groan, and shudder and they’re central to the mystery as it unfolds. Once you open that first page and cross the threshold into this book, you’ll keep flipping all the way until the end when the door shuts, but you’re left wanting more. There’s enough drama in this town for each character to carry their own story, and maybe that’s what’s behind the next door for Chris Harding Thornton. I can’t wait to read her next book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul Womack

    Slow start but hooked me. For me, the book does not have an ending. It just wanders to a halt, leaving questions with imagined answers. In that sense, it was unsatisfying. On the other hand, isn’t that life?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Hope

    This was amazing. The menace building is palpable. I've never been to Nebraska (nor really been inclined to go) but I felt like I could feel being there. The atmosphere is suffocating, like thick dust. Very well done. This was amazing. The menace building is palpable. I've never been to Nebraska (nor really been inclined to go) but I felt like I could feel being there. The atmosphere is suffocating, like thick dust. Very well done.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brit Bucklee

    2.5, straight down the middle. good prose, thin story.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sherry Beth Preston

    As a fan of books that take place in the Nebraska Sandhills, I was excited to read “Pickard County Atlas” by Chris Harding Thornton. Written in what might be called Nebraska Noir, this is a dark look at hard- scrapple folks existing in gritty circumstances. Thornton teaches literature and writing at the University of Nebraska, and has one of the best author bios I have read in a long time. Thornton writes about a fictional county in north-central Nebraska. The Reddick family and the Jensen family As a fan of books that take place in the Nebraska Sandhills, I was excited to read “Pickard County Atlas” by Chris Harding Thornton. Written in what might be called Nebraska Noir, this is a dark look at hard- scrapple folks existing in gritty circumstances. Thornton teaches literature and writing at the University of Nebraska, and has one of the best author bios I have read in a long time. Thornton writes about a fictional county in north-central Nebraska. The Reddick family and the Jensen family are shrouded by heartache and loss and the surviving members kind of drift through life in their own bubble. It’s 1978 and the Reddick brothers are refurbishing mobile homes for their father, always hoping to hit the jackpot –a double wide, so they get paid more. Refurbishing mobile homes doesn’t pay much, and Rick’s wife Pam is stretched to the limit-financially and emotionally. Sheriff’s Deputy Harley Jensen spends his evenings checking out the abandoned farmsteads around the county, finding clues that something is amiss; warm cigarette butts and half empty alcohol bottles. Someone keeps setting the homesteads on fire, and Jensen is determined to catch the firebug. “Each night on patrol, Harley absently ticked off names of passing tracts like reading a plat map in an old atlas. Convention out here held that pastures and fields were named for the living who owned them. Homes and outbuildings huddled within windbreaks, their yards lit by single lampposts, were named for their builders. The only exception was Harley’s folks’ place, the abandoned farmhouse he now approached and intended to speed right by...The Jensen place had been built by a Braasch, and a Braasch owned it now. Before Harley was born, there forty-seven years back, other families had lived in the silent two-story, but Jensen was the name that took. Which meant there were two systems for naming, Harley supposed. Industry or infamy. Whichever stuck.” “Pickard County Atlas” was a little hard to get into at first, because the novel follows three main characters. Once I realized it was only three characters, I caught on. The author knows Nebraska and Nebraskans; it felt very true to place. She writes about the long-term effects of trauma on families as well as poverty and hopelessness. My only complaint with the writing is that the author didn’t look at a map. All the way through it made sense spatially until the end when the author should have taken a simple glance at a map. I chose to listen to this, and I was disappointed in the narrator. Where do people get the idea that Nebraskans have a southern accent? We are two states from Canada, people! The narrator’s “drawl” really distracted from the content of the book. Folks who like a well-written book and don’t mind dark themes would enjoy “Pickard County Atlas.” Don’t expect a fast-paced thriller, it’s a literary novel with emphasis on character development and masterful writing as the plot unfolds.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    Pickard County Atlas by Chris Harding Thornton is a very highly recommended rural noir that focuses on past traumas amid the insular nature of a small town. It is 1978 in a dusty town in the north central sandhills of Pickard County, Nebraska. Sheriff’s deputy Harley Jensen is on night patrol where he follows a routine as he cruises the area and checks on the empty farmsteads located throughout the county. He also keeps an eye out for Paul Reddick, a young man who always seems to be involved in t Pickard County Atlas by Chris Harding Thornton is a very highly recommended rural noir that focuses on past traumas amid the insular nature of a small town. It is 1978 in a dusty town in the north central sandhills of Pickard County, Nebraska. Sheriff’s deputy Harley Jensen is on night patrol where he follows a routine as he cruises the area and checks on the empty farmsteads located throughout the county. He also keeps an eye out for Paul Reddick, a young man who always seems to be involved in trouble of one kind or another. In an attempt to bring some kind of closure after eighteen years, Dell Reddick Sr. has just made the decision to place a headstone over an empty grave for Dell Jr. who was killed in 1960 at the age of seven by a farmhand. Then the man committed suicide before he could tell people where he buried the boy and the body was never found. After this tragedy, the Reddick family has struggled. Virginia Reddick, Dell Jr.'s mother, withdrew into her own world and is said to be crazy. Rick Reddick is trying the best he can but his wife, Pam feels trapped and wants to escape from him, the constant struggle for money, and raising their three year old daughter. Harley Jensen has a past trauma that other's in the county know well. In 1938 his mother committed suicide when he was young and the house where it happened is one of the abandoned farm houses on his regular patrol route. Harley is still traumatized by this, but can hide his emotions as a part of his job. The novel unfolds during six oppressively sweltering days and begins when Harley is on patrol and passes by his family's old house, he sees Paul Reddick's truck parked there and turns into the drive to see what trouble the youngest Reddick is up to now. Pickard County Atlas is a wonderful example of rural noir and highlights the small town gossip and stories that can follow a family for generations. The slow start, while requiring some patience, eventually pays off and allows the tension to gradually build while the characters are introduced and their struggles with life are presented. As each new days unfolds, we become privy to the characters disclosing another incident, another misunderstanding, another enigma, another question, another deduction, another secret. As each new piece of information is added and builds upon the previous revelations, the novel becomes increasingly compelling, hopeless, and complex. The characters are well developed, and, although not especially likable, they are realistic as they head toward what seems a predestined fate. The quality of the writing and prose is excellent, making this an impressive debut novel. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2020/1...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ray Palen

    Chris Harding Thornton leaves quite an impression with her debut thriller entitled PICKARD COUNTY ATLAS. I saw it listed under the genre Noir Thriller, but I believe this work deserves a genre all its’ own --- Nebraska Noir. Set within the parameters of Pickard County, Nebraska, this novel juggles a handful of characters all of whom interact and by the end of the novel threaten to combust. The action takes place in six days and begins with Officer Harley Jensen on patrol one evening when he comes Chris Harding Thornton leaves quite an impression with her debut thriller entitled PICKARD COUNTY ATLAS. I saw it listed under the genre Noir Thriller, but I believe this work deserves a genre all its’ own --- Nebraska Noir. Set within the parameters of Pickard County, Nebraska, this novel juggles a handful of characters all of whom interact and by the end of the novel threaten to combust. The action takes place in six days and begins with Officer Harley Jensen on patrol one evening when he comes across a vehicle parked by the house, he grew up in. Now abandoned, the old home has become a target for bored teenagers to get drunk in and cause various forms of destruction. This time it is not a bunch of teens but the youngest of the Reddick family, Paul, who has become an infamous thorn in Harley’s side. Paul is with a young lady who does not give her identity and, of course, there are drugs in the car. Harley decides it is not worth the trouble and gets Paul Reddick to just leave, but not before providing an earful to Officer Harley that includes several jabs about one of his older siblings who went missing eighteen years prior and was never found by the police or anyone else in Pickard County. Harley’s boss, Sheriff Glenn Cox, constantly reminds him that he needs to get over his fixation with the Reddick boy and tries to keep him focused. Harley yeses him away knowing that Glenn has his own issues and probably should just retire. Another soul trapped in Pickard County is Pam Reddick who is in a mostly loveless marriage to Paul’s brother Rick. They have a toddler named Anna who Pam does not really want and has trouble getting attached to. Pam would love a way out but just cannot see past the front door of her beat-up trailer and her own family is completely useless to her. Paul and Rick are doing jobs for their father, mostly roof work and remodeling --- with a little drug dealing on the side. There also has been a small rash of arson in the county and Harley Jensen would love to pin that on the Reddick’s. What makes it even more ironic is that Paul and Rick’s mother has never been the same since the loss of her boy Dell Junior eighteen years earlier and was found by the Sheriff one evening starting a bonfire in her trashcan while completely naked. Paul spends the night in jail for a drunk and disorderly, brought in of course by Officer Jensen, and is picked up from the drunk tank the next day by Pam since no one else was available. This causes a tragic misunderstanding whereby Rick believes his wife Pam is sleeping with his own brother because he smelled Paul’s scent on their bed. Funny enough, Pam had only let Paul sleep his drunk off on their bed while she has just started an affair with none other than Harley Jensen. With these characters all following each other around Pickard County for one reason or another it is just a matter of time until they all catch up. When that happens, things may never be the same for any of them. It is easy to say that a novel is a ‘one-sit read’, but in the case of PICKARD COUNTY ATLAS I would not be far from the truth. The writing is so easy-going and fluid --- I imagine just like life in Nebraska --- yet it carries with it all the earmarks of great noir and becomes an instant literary classic. I cannot wait to see what Chris Harding Thornton has in store for us next! Reviewed by Ray Palen for Criminal Element

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

    A question I often ask myself before picking up a book is "What is this book about?" It took 100 pages in before landing on the disturbing, utterly thought-provoking theme within. Thought this was going to be in the suspense-thriller genre, and it is indeed dark and gritty, but no, this all about the inherent capability all people have for psychological darkness. People in urban and suburban locations may not be able to relate as well to the setting, but it is superbly depicted. Nebraska is wide A question I often ask myself before picking up a book is "What is this book about?" It took 100 pages in before landing on the disturbing, utterly thought-provoking theme within. Thought this was going to be in the suspense-thriller genre, and it is indeed dark and gritty, but no, this all about the inherent capability all people have for psychological darkness. People in urban and suburban locations may not be able to relate as well to the setting, but it is superbly depicted. Nebraska is wide open spaces and then some. Lots of farms; towns are mostly old buildings. Exceptions of course. A small-town cop, Harley, traverses the country roads constantly looking for teens misbehaving to brush fires. Divorced, he is alone and lonely, living with a dark shadow within his own nuclear family. And he is convinced the Reddick son Paul is the cause of just about everything wrong in the area. Pam and Rick Reddick are young parents, living in a broken down trailer park. Never enough money. Rick works for his controlling father repairing trailers along with Paul who never does his share. Their mentally ill mother is missing. Their brother died at 6 yrs old and the family has never recovered, in part because the kid's body was never recovered. Everybody in town knows everybody's business. So two tragedies of about 18-20 years previous intermingle with the current stressors building to a very taut crescendo. There is a big conclusion, but no spoilers here. Final thoughts, as the story suggests for consideration: -maybe suicide is okay if the person is truly miserable in this world and nothing will make it ok. -when terrible things happen within families, the children absorb the pain too which can create dysfunction in their own adult lives. -when awful things happen to adults, they may exhibit some scary, hard to understand behavior. -Survivors, the ones who forge a decent life, are still damaged. Well written, great setting, perfect book cover, title is just a touch offputting (who wants to read an atlas?) but it makes sense as the police officer continuously navigates the endless square miles. People will not likely love this book, but certainly should respect it. For fans of Willy Vlautin.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Pickard County Atlas (by Chris Harding Thornton) is so very well written and tightly plotted with such fully realized characters that it seems almost insulting to refer to it as "just" rural noir... or country lit... or a half-dozen other terms which all amount to the same thing - it doesn't take place in the big city and it deals in an almost poetic way with some hard truths. Bottom line: This is a very good book. The fact that it's a debut novel is stunning. From the official blurb: "Small-tow Pickard County Atlas (by Chris Harding Thornton) is so very well written and tightly plotted with such fully realized characters that it seems almost insulting to refer to it as "just" rural noir... or country lit... or a half-dozen other terms which all amount to the same thing - it doesn't take place in the big city and it deals in an almost poetic way with some hard truths. Bottom line: This is a very good book. The fact that it's a debut novel is stunning. From the official blurb: "Small-town secrets loom large in this spellbinding rural noir about the aftershocks of crime and trauma that shake a Nebraskan town." I'm going to disagree with one aspect of that. Pickard County Atlas is less about small-town secrets than it is about how, in small-towns, everyone knows everyone else's business. How difficult it is for the past to be forgotten in the kind of place where who you are is as much about who you're related to as it is about how you present yourself within the community. Almost forty years ago Harley Jenson's family suffered a great tragedy. After all this time people still get a certain look on their faces when in his presence. Now, as a sheriff’s deputy who works night patrol, Harley has more-or-less ceased to be anything other than a function of his job. About twenty years ago a different kind of tragedy struck the Reddick family. Though it ultimately split the family apart they are still in near constant contact with each other to the point that their ongoing dysfunction threatens to destroy everything around them. When Pam Reinhardt married into the Reddick family she really didn't put an awful lot of thought into the future, but several years and one child later things have changed. Pam starts to think she made a huge mistake. It’s July 1978. The nights are hot and restless. The trouble is just beginning. I highly recommend Pickard County Atlas by Chris Harding Thornton to anyone who enjoys gritty, realistic noir with a light touch of dark humor. Contains adult language and situations, drug use, and violence. ***I received a free digital copy of this title from NetGalley

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    This was a good story. Very steady and slow moving but building to a cresendo that is, while predictable, very satisfying. Small-town secrets loom large in this spellbinding rural noir about the aftershocks of crime and trauma that shake a Nebraskan town In a dusty town in Nebraska’s rugged sandhills, weary sheriff’s deputy Harley Jensen patrols the streets at night, on the lookout for something—anything—out of the ordinary. It’s July 1979, and the heat is making people ornery, restless. That and This was a good story. Very steady and slow moving but building to a cresendo that is, while predictable, very satisfying. Small-town secrets loom large in this spellbinding rural noir about the aftershocks of crime and trauma that shake a Nebraskan town In a dusty town in Nebraska’s rugged sandhills, weary sheriff’s deputy Harley Jensen patrols the streets at night, on the lookout for something—anything—out of the ordinary. It’s July 1979, and the heat is making people ornery, restless. That and the Reddick family patriarch has decided, decades after authorities ended the search for his murdered boy’s body, to lay a headstone. Instead of bringing closure, this decision is the spark that threatens to set Pickard County ablaze. On the fateful night of the memorial service, Harley tails the youngest Reddick and town miscreant, Paul, through the abandoned farms and homes of their run-down town. The pursuit puts Harley in the path of Pam Reddick, a restless young woman looking for escape, bent on cutting the ties of motherhood and marriage. Filled with desperate frustration, Pam is drawn to Harley’s dark history, not unlike that of her husband, Rick—a man raised in the wreckage of a brother’s violent death and a mother’s hardened fury. Unfolding over six tense days, Pickard County Atlas sets Harley and the Reddicks on a collision course—propelling them toward an incendiary moment that will either redeem or end them. Engrossing, darkly funny, and real, Chris Harding Thorton’s debut rings with authenticity and a nuanced sense of place even as it hums with menace, introducing an astonishing new voice in suspense.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Described as a rural noir, Pickard County Atlas depicts the aftermath of tragedy and a family apparently rocketing toward another. Eighteen years ago, a child was killed and his body never found. His mother has withdrawn into her own world, her remaining sons have never learned to cope with either the tragedy of the past or their current lives. The father, although he provides economic support., deserted his wife and seems to have failed his sons. Now the mother is missing, the middle son is str Described as a rural noir, Pickard County Atlas depicts the aftermath of tragedy and a family apparently rocketing toward another. Eighteen years ago, a child was killed and his body never found. His mother has withdrawn into her own world, her remaining sons have never learned to cope with either the tragedy of the past or their current lives. The father, although he provides economic support., deserted his wife and seems to have failed his sons. Now the mother is missing, the middle son is struggling to provide for his family, and the youngest son seems bent on destruction, either his own or that of those around him. Deputy Harley Jensen, patrolling the night roads of Pickard County, is also haunted by a tragedy in his own childhood. For years he has watched the Reddick family's youngest son ricochet from one disaster to the next, never quite legally culpable but nonetheless a catalyst. A chance encounter with the wife of the middle Reddick son further entwines their lives. Heartbreaking, but at the same time depicting the resilience of rural and small town residents. I was astounded to learn that this was the author's first novel. Much gratitude to NetGalley and MCD (a new division of Farrar, Straus & Giroux) for the opportunity to read the eARC in return for an honest review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Patrick Boyer

    My first 2021 book!! Tense relationships between members of two families whose pasts are haunted by terrible tragedy come to a head in Chris Harding Thornton's slow-burning debut, Pickard County Atlas. It's a slow-burn, alright, but never exactly slow. Thornton's prose brings these characters and their dying town to life with a pensive complexity. She finds grace in their melancholic lives and turns their relationships into a high-risk tightrope walk. Once the events come to a head, Thornton fills My first 2021 book!! Tense relationships between members of two families whose pasts are haunted by terrible tragedy come to a head in Chris Harding Thornton's slow-burning debut, Pickard County Atlas. It's a slow-burn, alright, but never exactly slow. Thornton's prose brings these characters and their dying town to life with a pensive complexity. She finds grace in their melancholic lives and turns their relationships into a high-risk tightrope walk. Once the events come to a head, Thornton fills the climactic moments with as much thematic resonance as she does fateful devastation. However, it all falters in dragging out its build-up into the climax. It works in a way to milk the tension, but the final moments aren't quite explosive enough to warrant such a build-up, so cutting back certainly would've made the finale pack a more emotional punch. Pickard County Atlas is a dense read, making the most of its conservative page count. And it's filled with a fully realized cast of tragic characters, their longing, their grief, and most of all, their always burning fuses. It didn't leave me quite as floored as I thought it was going to leading into the final act, but it's certainly one that's bound to stick with me. 6/10

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    "Maybe she just wasn't cut out for any of this. Maybe it was like how some people were naturally good at math and others were good at spelling; maybe other people were naturals at playing house and forgetting that they were going to die and that all the people they knew were going to die. Maybe other people could live with how keeping people around only reminded you of how fast you are all going and they were okay with lapsing into the dream of it, the dream of constant faces in places every day "Maybe she just wasn't cut out for any of this. Maybe it was like how some people were naturally good at math and others were good at spelling; maybe other people were naturals at playing house and forgetting that they were going to die and that all the people they knew were going to die. Maybe other people could live with how keeping people around only reminded you of how fast you are all going and they were okay with lapsing into the dream of it, the dream of constant faces in places every day, and maybe it didn't scare the ever-living shit out of them when they woke up every once in a while, just long enough to realize their whole life was gone in a haze of vacuuming and figuring out their bills and patching crotches of jeans. Maybe that was just it. She pulled the door shut behind her." Finally a portrait of motherhood I recognize. An honest story of a wife and a mother and families that are trapped, generation upon generation, of surviving and mistaking it for living. Written by a seventh generation Nebraskan, set in a small town in Nebraska, and yet universal in its themes, this novel is well-crafted and worth reading.

  30. 4 out of 5

    the overstuffed bookshelf

    Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Strous and Giroux for this advance reader's copy of Pickard County Atlas by Chris Harding Thornton. When I read that this book was being reviewed as noir I was hesitant. I'm not a fan of noir, at least not in the traditional sense. If Pickard County Atlas is considered noir I may have to change my opinion because this book blew me away. This is the story of a small town in a rural area and how long ago tragedies never really stop haunting the ones closest to the Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Strous and Giroux for this advance reader's copy of Pickard County Atlas by Chris Harding Thornton. When I read that this book was being reviewed as noir I was hesitant. I'm not a fan of noir, at least not in the traditional sense. If Pickard County Atlas is considered noir I may have to change my opinion because this book blew me away. This is the story of a small town in a rural area and how long ago tragedies never really stop haunting the ones closest to them. The story is focused on four main characters; Harley, Pam, Rick and Paul and how relationships can be misunderstood. If you have ever lived in a rural area you will be able to picture this book like it's happening in real life. The writing is impeccable. The characters are extremely well fleshed out, to the point that if they ever make it a movie people will argue about who should be cast based on their own imagined versions. Pickard County Atlas is going to be one of the books that makes it on all of the best books of the year lists in 2021. Don't miss it.

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