A stunning debut novel set in the late 1990s as an androgynous youth arrives in small-town Minnesota, searching for the mother who abandoned him as a child
On a clear morning in the summer of 1997, Shane Stephenson arrives in Holm, Minnesota, with only a few changes of clothes, an old Nintendo, and a few dollars to his name. Reeling from the death of his father, Shane wants to find the mother who abandoned him as an adolescent-hoping to reconnect, but also to better understand himself. Against the backdrop of Minnesota's rugged wilderness, and a town littered with shuttered shops, graffiti, and crumbling infrastructure, Holm feels wild and dangerous.
Holm's residents, too, are wary of outsiders, and Shane's long blonde hair and androgynous looks draw attention from a violent and bigoted contingent in town, including the unhinged Sven Svenson. He is drawn in by a group of sympathetic friends in their teens and early twenties, all similarly lost and frequent drug users: the reckless, charming J and his girlfriend Mary; Jenny, a brilliant and beautiful artist who dreams of escaping Holm; and the mysterious loner Russell, with whom Shane, against his better judgment, feels a strange attraction. As Sven's threats of violence escalate, Shane is forced to choose between his search for his mother, the first true friendships he's ever had, and a desire to leave both his past and present behind entirely.
At its core, Northern Lights is the story of a son searching for his mother, and for a connection with her, dealing with issues of abandonment and forgiveness. But it also addresses the complications, tensions, and dysfunction that can exist in those relationships, presenting an unforgettable world and experience often overlooked, with a new kind of hero to admire.
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About the AuthorMichael Crouch is an actor based in New York City. His audiobook narration has won the prestigious Audie Award for Best Narration, numerous Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, and Best of the Year accolades from Booklist, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. He can also be heard on national commercials, cartoons, video games, and the anime series Pokemon XY and Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V.
Raymond Strom was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, and moved from small town to small town in the Midwest as a child. He received his MFA from the City College of New York, where he now works as an academic advisor and studies romance languages. His writing has appeared in Fiction, Tweed's, and The New York Times. Northern Lights is his first novel.
Deftly captures the knife-edge of addiction, the electricity of first love, and the insatiable search for belonging.-- "Jessie Chaffee, author of Florence in Ecstasy"
The powerful bonds of at-risk youth are vividly portrayed and movingly rendered. I found myself rooting for this crew of troubled, resourceful kids.-- "Emily Raboteau, American Book Award-winning author"
The search for identity, both familial and sexual, is at the core of this outstanding debut...Strom renders their lives with sympathy but not sentimentality, and we come to care deeply for Shane and his friends as the novel moves toward its powerful conclusion.-- "Ron Rash, author of Serena and Above the Waterfall"
Written with a mesmerizing voice as crystalline and startling as the title suggests...[with] cool, sharp-eyed clarity and tender pathos.-- "Brendan Kiely, author of The Last True Love Story"
Sweet and sneaky, Northern Lights is a novel to savor, a sad and heartfelt exploration of the families that fail us and the ones we construct after..-- "Greg Downs, Flannery O'Connor Award-winning author"
With echoes of Richard Ford and early Hemingway, Raymond Strom's Northern Lights shows us a cold landscape, a heartland that has never had a more frightening hold on the nightmares of this country, illuminating an American sadness that needs to be understood before it overwhelms us all.-- "Mark Mirsky, author of The Red Adam and Blue Hill Avenue"
Powerful...[Strom] has a sure hand as he addresses such timely issues as identity, sexism, prejudice, drug abuse, conformity, and community from a queer perspective.-- "Booklist"
Strom paints a portrait of small-town life that is sure to make readers shiver...Shane is heartbreaking, and readers will have a hard time parting with him after the book is over. A powerful depiction of the currency of intolerance and addiction in one small town.-- "Kirkus Reviews"
Strom's insightful navigation of family trauma, sexual identity, and small-town despair blends with his chilling depictions of drug abuse. This bleak, unsentimental novel will resonate with readers who like gritty coming-of-age tales.-- "Publishers Weekly"