“Family is destiny in Pam Bernard’s brilliantly accomplished verse novel. Westward settlement in the early years of the twentieth century, rendered in lush and startling detail, is yoked to the... [continued in Reviews below]”—Jennifer Barber, author of Given Away,
Esther breaks down unbearable family tragedy into our one defense against such human travail: a well-crafted story
A novel-in-verse, Esther is molded with the poet’s tools—among them sound and image, and the belief that the smallest increments of language can provide the grace to withstand, in the name of family, the onslaught of human failings and cruelty.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“Family is destiny in Pam Bernard’s brilliantly accomplished verse novel. Westward settlement in the early years of the twentieth century, rendered in lush and startling detail, is yoked to the brokenness at the core of Esther’s family. In verse as finely attuned to the measure of the line as it is to layers of meaning, Bernard makes manifest a time, a place, and a woman, and sheds new light on the darkness that gets handed down from one generation to the next. Esther is a wrenching and exhilarating experience: no reader will remain unchanged.”—Jennifer Barber, author of Given Away
“In the early 1900’s, traveling from Kansas to California, across prairie and plains, desert and mountains, Esther’s journey is an odyssey of the spirit, a journey toward self-knowledge and survival. In this brilliant novel in verse, Pam Bernard perfectly blends poetic language, imagination, and research to create a work of stunning achievement, where each character is drawn spare and sharp, each event becomes metaphor. Yet the landscape is perhaps the strongest character of all—save Esther herself, whose strength in the face of abuse, grief, and loneliness will leave an indelible mark on your own spirit.”—Patricia Fargnoli, author of Winter
From the Book:
From across the meadow her father
called into the darkening air Esther
She wanted to yell out, to tell someone,
but a quiet covered her mouth and kept her
still. As the last slender spine of daylight
stabbed through her hiding place, she
began to make her way home. The sky
bled black with crows, hundreds of them,
an argosy of wings banking the horizon.
Mother clamped the meat grinder, her
one-armed household god, to the table’s edge—
hash for supper, sweet corn put up
last summer, lustered from the field.
wind wrestled the honey locust.
When morning came the horse
ran loose in the peach orchard.
PAM BERNARD, a poet, painter, editor, and adjunct professor, received her MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College and BA from Harvard University. Her awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry and a MacDowell Fellowship. Ms. Bernard lives in Walpole, New Hampshire, and teaches at the New Hampshire Institute of Art and Franklin Pierce University.