Published: September 10, 2019
Publisher: Dzanc Books
Trim: 5.50 x 8.50 Inches
By John Englehardt
About the BookWinner of the Dzanc Books Prize for Fiction
An Indies Introduce pick
"Hugely important, hauntingly brutal—Englehardt has just announced himself as one of America’s most talented emerging writers." —Kirkus starred review
Bloomland opens during finals week at a fictional southern university, when a student walks into the library with his roommate’s semi-automatic rifle and opens fire. When he stops shooting, twelve people are dead.
In this richly textured debut, John Englehardt explores how the origin and aftermath of the shooting impacts the lives of three characters: a disillusioned student, a grieving professor, and a young man whose valuation of fear and disconnection funnels him into the role of the aggressor. As the community wrestles with the fallout, Bloomland interrogates social and cultural dysfunction in a nation where mass violence has become all too familiar.
Profound and deeply nuanced, Bloomland is a dazzling debut for fans of Denis Johnson and We Need to Talk About Kevin.
"Englehardt’s brilliant and insanely brave debut is a culturally diagnostic achievement in the same way that Don DeLillo’s White Noise and Libra are culturally diagnostic achievements; his sentences are brutal and unflinching and yet mystically humane in the spirit of Denis Johnson’s Angels; and his America is at once beautiful and love-swirled and a kaleidoscopic wreck—a land whose cultural geology mirrors its physical one, routinely generating the “mindless malignancy” of town-wrecking tornadoes and desperate young men with guns." —Kirkus starred review
"A quiet, deeply moving book about trauma and its aftereffects. The characters—an aimless kid who opens fire in a university library, the instructor he murders, her husband, and the talented girlfriend of one of the victims—are all survivors of previous tragedies. Their stories are narrated by a young English professor who was involved with each of them, and his voice, disembodied, probing, sad, and oddly complicitous, gives the book an eerie, haunting strength. I read Bloomland in one sitting and have been thinking about it ever since."
—Molly Giles, author of All the Wrong Places
"Gripping, compelling, at once troubling and funny and deeply moving, Bloomland disturbs in all the right ways. John Englehardt has his finger on the pulse of America: our primitiveness and sophistication, our faith-hunger and empty yearning, our compulsion toward violence as the redemptive act, our relentless, romantic dance with death. With humor and insight and gorgeous prose, Englehardt traces the multiple faces of mass violence, giving us a stark and true and telling portrait of a place and a people in the heart of the country. This is a stunning debut."
—Rilla Askew, author of Most American: Notes from a Wounded Place
"Bloomland, as its title suggests, is a garden of dark delights. Wise to the point of faint aphorism, but never glib, Englehardt guides us with a sure hand through the intimate terrain of collective horrors—acts of God and acts of man, not so different as one might think. I surfaced at the end as if from a deep immersion, feeling as though I'd been carried very far away—not drowned, buoyed—to a place that, seen so sharply, looked, frighteningly and reassuringly, like home."
—Padma Viswanathan, author of The Ever After of Ashwin Rao
"This book is crammed full of sentences so brutal and good you want to copy down and remember them. It’s got insights into sadness and desperation but also into the longing to be something else that sometimes saves us. It’s amazing."
—Rebecca Brown, author of Not Heaven, Somewhere Else
"In beautifully wrought prose, John Englehardt paints a searing portrait of violence and its aftermath, a haunting reckoning with death that shimmers and pulses with life."
-Emily Geminder, author of Dead Girls and Other Stories
"Englehardt’s unflinching look at gun violence points to the many forms of social and cultural dysfunction that condition mass shootings and our inadequate responses to them. By presenting multiple perspectives, Englehardt boldly encourages readers to recognize the humanity of both victims and perpetrators. Bloomland ultimately offers a profound meditation on individual and collective grief and an arresting portrait of a society that refuses to countenance the complex causes and devastating human toll of gun violence."
-Alice Hatcher, author of The Wonder That Was Ours
"Openhearted yet cold-eyed, alive with carnage and deep caring, Bloomland treats its central tragedy, a mass shooting, in a way that reveals its entire ragged, bleeding scope. John Englehardt couldn’t be more subtle, even playful, as he probes both before and after, both Ground Zero and the surrounding ruin. At the same time, he couldn’t raise a more resonant wail of warning, as the mourners multiply till we too feel separated from the horror by only a few frail degrees. A handful of brave novels have tried to count the toll taken by by such slaughters, but none match Bloomland for portraying the monster of mass violence as so irredeemably American."
-John Domini, author of Movieola!