Pale hope in a dreary place

Review of ‘Pale Harvest’ by Braden Hepner.

 

Pale Harvest
Braden Hepner
366 pages,
softcover: $16.95.
Torrey House Press, 2014.

Set in modern times, in a small “passing-over place” in northern Utah, Idaho author Braden Hepner’s debut novel follows Jack Selvedge, a 20-year-old dairy farmer working his grandfather’s land, struggling against his own indifference. Young Rebekah Rainsford shakes things up when she returns to town, fleeing her abusive father. She becomes Selvedge’s obsession, a symbol of hope. “She had brought with her an essence. … It was a sullen thing she carried, in some ways frightening and in some ways appealing and in all ways maddening. It was something he needed but could never get in the remote and meager collection of houses. …” As their relationship forms, her dark history forces him to confront the chasm between his ideals and reality, while two major betrayals threaten everything.  

Hepner captures the nuances of the dramatic landscape of the Cache Valley, where cultivated fields give way to desert and mountains rise up against open skies. He employs a meditative language drawn from the land, delivering the richness of Selvedge’s inner life:  “On the gentle hillside bones stood from the sand and yellow grass like ruins, the white architecture of death. How to describe what flowers grew from those bones in the springtime. Of deep purple and yellow, blue and red and white. Each one a marvel worth contemplation. How many times had he stopped to watch them tremble in the wind among the white bones.”

Dumptruck, from the author’s photo research for Pale Harvest.
Braden Hepner

Pale Harvest is a dark novel by a deft storyteller, a modern retelling of the legend of Adam and Eve. It explores tensions between good and evil, ignorance and knowledge, and hope and belief. The occasional appearance of phrases like “primitive and beautiful squaw” does nothing to further the characters; Hepner does a superb job of making them full and authentic, and doesn’t need to resort to language of exoticism and conquest. Pale Harvest walks the reader into the liminal spaces between life and death, and shows how a human being can be made anew. “Hope was his faith, his religion. It was the consequential vestige of maturity, of knowledge, a remnant product of adult sin. In the end they had nothing more than a hope commensurate with their fear, and in this way they were purified and set free.”

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Communications Associate Director Location: Flexible within the Western U.S., Durango, CO preferred Position reports to: Senior Communications Director The Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF)...
  • HISTORIC HOTEL & CAFE
    For Sale, 600k, Centennial Wyoming, 6 suites plus 2 bed, 2 bath apartment. www.themountainviewhotel.com Make this your home or buy a turn key hotel [email protected]
  • MAJOR GIFTS OFFICER
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Major Gifts Officer to join our...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • VICE PRESIDENT, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION
    Basic Summary: The Vice President for Landscape Conservation is based in the Washington, D.C., headquarters and oversees Defenders' work to promote landscape-scale wildlife conservation, focusing...
  • BRISTOL BAY PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Seeking a program director responsible for developing and implementing all aspects of the Alaska Chapter's priority strategy for conservation in the Bristol Bay region of...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The National Bighorn Sheep Center is looking for an Executive Director to take us forward into the new decade with continued strong leadership and vision:...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Powder Basin Watershed Council, based in Baker City, Oregon, seeks a new Executive Director with a passion for rural communities, water, and working lands....
  • CLEAN ENERGY PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Type: Permanent, fulltime Reports to: Executive Director Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state and out-of-state required Compensation (beginning): $44,000 to 46,500/yr., DOE plus excellent benefits...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.