"Some things just don't keep well inside this house ..."
The summer of 1966 burned hot across America but nowhere hotter than the cotton fields of Mississippi. Finding herself in a precarious position as a black woman living alone, Bernice accepts her brother Floyd's invitation to join him as a servant for a white family and she enters the web of hostility and deception that is the Kern plantation household.
The secrets of the house are plentiful yet the silence that has encompassed it for so many years suddenly breaks with the arrival of the harvest and the appearance of Jesse and Fletcher to the plantation as cotton pickers. These two brothers, the sons of the house servant Silva, awaken a vengeful seed within the Missus of the house as she plots to punish not only her husband but Silva's family as well. When the Missus starts flirting with Jesse, she sets into motion a dangerous game that could get Jesse killed and destroy the lives of the rest of the servants.
Bernice walks the fine line between emissary and accomplice, as she tries her best to draw secrets from the Missus's heart, while using their closeness to protect the lives of the people around her. Once the Missus's plans are complete, families will be severed, loyalties will be shattered, and no one will come out unscathed.
With a dazzling voice and rich emotional tension, Pale explores the ties that bind and how quickly humanity can fade and return us to primal ways.
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About the Author
Edward A. Farmer is a native of Memphis, Tennessee, where he journaled and cultivated stories his entire childhood. He is a graduate of Amherst College with a degree in English and psychology, and recipient of the MacArthur-Leithauser Travel Award for creative writing. He currently lives and writes in Pasadena, California. Pale is his first novel.
"Edward A. Farmer's novel, Pale, takes readers on a twisting, turning journey of unexpected passions, forbidden love, and practiced cruelty. His sumptuous prose creates an operatic vision of life on a cotton plantation in 1960s Mississippi, a world on the cusp of great change that many of its characters resist with all their power. Farmer's debut marks the emergence of an exciting new voice in American fiction."-- "May-lee Chai, author of Useful Phrases for Immigrants: Stories and Dragon Chica"
"Edward A. Farmer's Pale is a novel that surges full force into the power of language. The music of the words builds and builds, rendering tension as thick as the humid Mississippi air. The characters overflow with this music, driven by intense passions, often to the point of madness. They try to make melody of circumstance and loss, but instead find only dissonance. Farmer orchestrates this story with the genius of a maestro, only releasing the reader through a deft and lovely resolution in the novel's final pages. A striking debut by an author to watch."-- "Zach Powers, author of First Cosmic Velocity and Gravity Changes"
"Edward Farmer's powerful debut, Pale, lures you in with its atmospheric prose, grabbing hold gently and then slowly tightening its emotional grip with each page. His main character, Bernice, must navigate Mississippi plantation life circa 1966 with its deeply embedded racism and well-established patriarchy, as well as the complex tensions between both Mr. and Mrs. Kerns and their servants. It's a beautifully wrought novel, with each character sensitively drawn, exposing the lasting effects of trauma. Farmer is a writer to watch!"-- "John Copenhaver, author of the Macavity Award-winning Dodging and Burning"
"More than once I had to remind myself to take a deep breath while reading Pale. It's a slow walk through a poetic dream, or rather an inescapable nightmare. Edward Farmer deftly portrays characters that are trapped by choices other people made long ago. A beautiful exploration of the tension between choices and circumstances. The evil of intergenerational racism is revealed by the preference to live in a quicksand of hatred, to choose slow vengeance over breaking free."-- "Laila Ibrahim, bestselling author of Yellow Crocus"
"Farmer's debut captures the delicate and dangerous lose-lose reality of a person in Bernice's position...Farmer opens with cotton imagery and returns to it throughout, disallowing any visions of beautiful, puffy whiteness...The story's rewards and Bernice's experience are important."-- "Booklist"
"The plot and writing are evocative of the work of the late Ernest Gaines; it's a story simply and directly told, and by that simplicity and directness it exposes familial cruelties and kindnesses in equal measure. This is a promising beginning for a writer who, whether he realizes it or not, continues a rich and lyrical narrative tradition. A beautiful first novel."-- "Library Journal (starred review)"
"[Farmer] excels at atmosphere, using the oppressive heat of summer, the heaviness of the night sky, the sound of the wind through the cotton, and the isolation of the plantation to deepen the feeling of melancholy...Recommended for readers who like quiet, character-driven novels."-- "Historical Novels Review"
"Pale is such a wonderfully written book. From the wonderful, well-rounded characters to the very descriptive setting and story, I could not help but feel as if I were in the story itself...I could not help but enjoy the journey that the book brought me on, and in a way, I couldn't help but feel like I learned something new about an era of American history that is often overlooked."-- "Portland Book Review"
"Farmer has woven a richly descriptive historical tale that chronicles just how much pain and racism can alter the course of one's life."-- "Deep South Magazine"
"The book's poetic yet forthright prose has been compared to the work of Ernest Gaines. It's an evocative debut for a novelist who surely has a promising career ahead of him."-- "Augusta Chronicle"
"Secrets and revenge haunt a Mississippi plantation in Pale, the potent debut novel...Readers will hang on each page, just as Bernice feels bound to stay until the story is done. This intergenerational story of racism, patriarchy, and vengeance is one that will not soon be forgotten."-- "Shelf Awareness (starred review)"
"There are perhaps a hundred ways to tell this story; the one Farmer chooses is striking for its patience. He allows his novel to germinate, to uncurl its stalk and lift its head to the sky, then swell into a white, menacing bloom...Pale is an explosion in very slow motion, and what slows it down is powerful, lyrical language...The lover of literary craft will especially savor Farmer's mastery over point of view."-- "Amherst magazine "
"[Farmer] allows his novel to germinate, to uncurl its stalk and lift its head to the sky, then swell into a white, menacing bloom...Pale is an explosion in very slow motion, and what slows it down is powerful, lyrical language...The lover of literary craft will especially savor Farmer's mastery over point of view."-- "Amherst magazine "