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Publish Date: September 2012
The Fall of Alice K.
BY Jim Heynen
Seventeen-year-old Alice Marie Krayenbraak is beautiful, witty, a star student, and a gifted athlete. On the surface, she has it all. But in Alice’s hometown of Dutch Center, Iowa, nothing is as it seems. Behind the façade of order and tidiness, the family farm is failing. Alice’s mother is behaving strangely amid fears of a coming apocalypse. And her parents have announced their plans to send her special-needs sister Aldah away.
It’s the fall of senior year, and Alice now finds herself at odds with both family and cultural norms when she befriends and falls in love with Nickson Vang, one of a growing number of Hmong immigrants changing the complexion of this formerly homogenous Dutch Calvinist population. Caught in a period of personal and community transformation, Alice and Nickson must navigate their way through vastly different traditions while fighting to create new ones of their own.
Funny and provocative, amusing and unsettling, The Fall of Alice K. marks a watershed moment in the publishing career of veteran author, Jim Heynen, who has finally given readers of his short fiction a novel, as well as his first book to prominently feature a female protagonist, and his best effort to make peace with a strict Protestant upbringing.
BEYOND THE BOOK
• Read Jim Heynens thoughts about Dutch Calvinists, crime and scandal in rural Iowa, and nerdy wordplay with Tobias Wolff.
• Reading The Fall of Alice K. for a book club? Use this Reading Group Guide to keep the discussion lively.
• Sometimes, Heynen reminds us, it helps to look at your world through the eyes of a seventeen-year old farm girl.
• Listen to his interview with Minnesota Public Radio below.
“Alice’s navigation of the rough seas of first love, oncoming adulthood and a family crisis might be an effective metaphor for what the larger community is facing at the turn of the millennium—but it doesn’t read like a metaphor. It is, in keeping with Heynen’s considerable gifts, painstakingly particular, immediate and moving . . . Hers is a finely focused, perfectly calibrated story of finding a balance between the forces that govern society, settling and striving, putting down roots and reaching for the light.”
“Heynen’s gorgeous sense of place is in every detail.”