Revisiting Emily Kiernan's "Great Divide"
After fleeing years of abuse in her Oregon seacoast home, Jane experiences new freedom by moving with her boyfriend to the new world of the landlocked Kansas plains. As she travels, Jane’s progress is threatened by nostalgia and attachment, responsibility and uncertainty. The power of her past has brought a pressing, and terrible need to escape not only her home, but also the force that it has to shape her present and even her future. As Jane’s internal, mercurial conflicts become overwhelming, the forces of nature brings a massive flood that also threatens to overwhelm both her past and her future. Jane experiences the powerful force of memory and how events of the past can directly affect the future, if she lets them. Floating atop a sea of time, Great Divide, at once alluring and threatening, beckons the reader to dive in with Jane into the imagery, metaphor, and power of memory.
Reviews of Great Divide
If you enjoy getting to know characters deeply through accessible beautiful prose that includes all the very human quirks and mixed feelings, read The Great Divide: A Novel and it will keep you unable to put it down, as you immerse yourself in the lives. She does whatever it takes, whatever POV or tense, whatever intimacy and uncomfortable complexity of abuse, to bring you into believing fictional characters must be reborn in your mind, to lives that are so real, they can't be left out in the cold, waiting.
Kiernan shows the depth of the humanity of the characters than most writers. The way Jane pretends to be still asleep briefly when someone else is in the tent -- that's the kind of tiny subtle quirky thing we all do, but that level of detail is rarely captured in prose so often focused these days on simply moving the plot forward at the sake of character development.
It's told with sensitivity of language that's delicate and bold at the same time. I love the stockholm syndrome with the father, the way she's given in and stayed friends with him, the way they don't talk about it, yet there is love. Getting reactions like that to sound believable, possible to identify with, moment by moment in the ambiguity, hesitance, domination, is tough, and she does it masterfully.
Anyone who loves beautiful writing will love Emily Kiernan's Great Divide. There is not a superfluous word in this tight, dense, richly imagistic story of a young woman trying to escape the deluge of her past as a flood of epic proportions threatens the western U.S. Kiernan deftly moves back and forth between past and present, drawing the reader into the protagonist's emotions and experiences in vivid detail. I felt I knew the places she describes and what it was like to live through the protagonist's story. This is a book that should be read like poetry - in one sitting, to ingest the flavor of it entirely - and returned to in order to savor the detailed, nuanced language. I was particularly impressed with the ending (I won't give anything away here); Kiernan strikes the perfect note, not providing too much closure but leaving the reader satisfied. Great Divide, for all its brevity, packed a punch and stuck with me. I'm looking forward to whatever Kiernan writes next!
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