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PRAIRIE SILENCE by Melanie Hoffert


A Memoir

by Melanie Hoffert

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-8070-4473-5
Publisher: Beacon

A rural expatriate examines the pain caused by leaving the place she loved, the struggle involved in aligning her sexuality with faith and hometown values, and the devastation wrought by rural depopulation.

Hoffert grew up in a tiny North Dakota farm town. From a young age the author understood she was gay. After attending college, she established a successful professional career and satisfying personal life in Minneapolis. Though the lure of home persisted, when she returned, she remained mute regarding her sexual preference. “There is something that silences the stories of lives,” she writes, “…and something that pushes those who cannot stand the silence away from the beauty that was once their childhood home.” Hoffert returned home for a month during harvest season, intent on exploring the stark, beautiful landscape, working on the family farm and discovering the root of the ingrained silence surrounding her sexuality. Woven into the author’s personal exploration are startling and sad facts on the state of rural life in America, illustrating the “painfully irreversible population decline” that is leading to the extinction of small towns across the country. Hoffert ponders the meaning of this loss and whether she is a member of “the first generation to realize that the world of rural America—both the good and bad of it—will never again be as it once was.” The author’s mostly quiet narrative includes a wealth of haunting images and ideas that will linger long after the last sentence.

A heartfelt love song to a place and its people as well as an honest and rewarding rendering of the author’s interior landscape.