Critically-acclaimed author Brad Kessler (Goat Song) returns with a powerful new novel about the intertwining lives of a Vermont monk, a Somali refugee, and an Afghan war veteran. North traces Sahro Abdi Muse’s epic journey from Somalia to South America and up through the United States. On her way to safety in Canada, she finds herself seeking refuge in Brother Christopher’s Vermont monastery. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage (Ruined, Sweat) joined Kessler in conversation.
By Brad Kessler
Published by The Overlook Press
As a late spring blizzard brews, Father Christopher, a cloistered monk at Blue Mountain Monastery in Vermont, rushes to tend to his Ida Red and Northern Spy apple trees in advance of the unseasonal storm. When snow brings a young Somali refugee, Sahro Abdi Muse, to the monastery, Christopher is pulled back into the world and their lives intersect in surprising and illuminating ways.
North traces the epic journey of Sahro from her home in Somalia to South America, along the migrant route through Central America and Mexico, to New York City, and finally, her last attempt to cross into safety in Canada. It also traces the inner journeys of Father Christopher questioning his monastic way of life, which seems suddenly outdated and privileged, and veteran Teddy Fletcher, who is seeking a way to make peace with his past.
Written in Brad Kessler’s sharp, beautiful prose and grounded in the author’s own experience among cloistered monks, resettled Somali refugees in Vermont and local veterans, North gives voice to these invisible communities while investigating the idea of sanctuary and the hope of human connection in a time of displacement.
Brad Kessler is the author of the memoir, Goat Song, as well as two critically acclaimed novels, Lick Creek and Birds in Fall, which won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction. He has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Whiting, and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Nation, the Kenyon Review, and Bomb. He lives in Vermont.
Photo Credit: Dona Ann McAdams
Lynn Nottage is a playwright and a screenwriter, and the first woman in history to win two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world. Her plays include Floyd’s, Sweat, Mlima’s Tale, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, Ruined, Intimate Apparel, Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Las Meninas, Mud, River, Stone, Por’knockers, and POOF!. Musical librettos include The Secret Life of Bees and MJ (upcoming). She has also developed This is Reading, a performance installation in Reading, Pennsylvania. Ms. Nottage is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, among other awards, and is an Associate Professor at Columbia University School of the Arts.
Photo Credit: Lynn Savarese