You've never read a voice like Jessilyn Harney’s. Think Cold Mountain meets All the Pretty Horses, but told from a 17-year-old woman's perspective. Larison crafts a beautiful, adventurous, emotional tale of family and survival, complete with sharp-shooting outlaws and stunning descriptions of the landscape of the 19th-century American West. Recommended By Kathleen B., Powells.com
I don’t like guns, or violence, or Westerns, really, so there’s no reason why I should like Whiskey When We’re Dry as much as I do. Maybe it’s Jess, the tortured protagonist who goes out into the world like Shakespeare’s Rosalind accidentally stumbling into High Noon, all posturing and heart. Maybe it’s Larison’s evocative portrait of the old West, so dry, hot, and remorseless that I’d put the book down half-expecting to find grit in my clothes. Maybe it’s the way the novel revels in Clint Eastwood-level masculinity, but with a motherless girl at its center, constantly casting keen eyes on the nurturing that persists in what feels like a moral vacuum. Whiskey When We’re Dry succeeds because it looks square in the eye all of the ugliness of the genre — the slaughter, the racism, the misogyny — and it subverts them, but it doesn’t upend them. Jess is stuck in that bittersweet world, and the choices she makes there are riveting. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
“A thunderclap of originality, here is a fresh voice and fresh take on one of the oldest stories we tell about ourselves as Americans and Westerners. It’s riveting in all the right ways — a damn good read that stayed with me long after closing the covers.” – Timothy Egan, New York Times bestselling author of The Worst Hard Time
From a blazing new voice in fiction, a gritty and lyrical American epic about a young woman who disguises herself as a boy and heads west
In the spring of 1885, seventeen-year-old Jessilyn Harney finds herself orphaned and alone on her family’s homestead. Desperate to fend off starvation and predatory neighbors, she cuts off her hair, binds her chest, saddles her beloved mare, and sets off across the mountains to find her outlaw brother Noah and bring him home. A talented sharpshooter herself, Jess’s quest lands her in the employ of the territory’s violent, capricious Governor, whose militia is also hunting Noah – dead or alive.
Wrestling with her brother’s outlaw identity, and haunted by questions about her own, Jess must outmaneuver those who underestimate her, ultimately rising to become a hero in her own right.
Told in Jess’s wholly original and unforgettable voice, Whiskey When We’re Dry is a stunning achievement, an epic as expansive as America itself–and a reckoning with the myths that are entwined with our history.
“Whiskey When We’re Dry is the story of a surprising heroine. In her search for home and family, orphaned Jessilyn Harney rides out on a lonely quest, and invents herself anew. Narrated in a voice cobbled out of slang and sagebrush, Larison’s novel is a vivid and fast-paced frontier saga.” Kate Manning, author of My Notorious Life
“Larison gifts Jess with a strong voice to narrate her own story…. his western epic has wide appeal” Booklist
“Told in -Jessilyn’s hard-hitting voice, [WHISKEY WHEN WE’RE DRY] has the resonance of a high lonesome ballad.” Library Journal
“An orphan girl straight out of a Gillian Welch song, betrayed in every way imaginable by the brutality that ‘won the West,’ is left no way to hew a family or honor but to become a virtuoso cross-dressed killer of Manifest Destiny’s men. As Jessilyn Harney takes on the great lies and liars with lyrical violence, her voice takes flight, becoming a sustained, forlornly beautiful, mind-bending aria for our age.” David James Duncan, author of The River Why
About the Author
John Larison earned an MFA from Oregon State University in 2007. During the eight years he was writing Whiskey When We’re Dry, he worked as a fly-fishing guide, a college writing instructor, and a freelance contributor to outdoor magazines. He lives with his family in rural Oregon.
John Larison on PowellsBooks.Blog
Early in my writing life, I made ends meet by rowing drift boats and rafts down Oregon’s whitewater rivers. My early gigs were low-paying and low stress: I would shuttle camp supplies downstream while the outfitter and clients fly-fished. After a season without a mishap, I traded camp supplies for real live anglers, which meant more headaches but also bigger tips...
Powell's Staff on PowellsBooks.Blog
Without further ado, our favorite fiction from 2018...