Rebecca Rasmussen (The Bird Sisters) traces the lasting damage of violence to devastating effect in her second novel, Evergreen, a fairy tale-like chronicle of how one moment’s pain can echo through generations.

When gentle, innocent young Eveline follows her German-born husband, Emil, to a homestead in the wilds of Minnesota after their marriage in 1938, she must learn to care for her family without the comforts of town.

Soon after their son, Hux, is born, Emil is called to the bedside of his dying father in Germany. He instructs Eveline to take Hux and return to her parents in town, but Eveline, who has fallen in love with the freedom and beauty of the wilderness, decides to await his return in their primitive cabin. Human threats prove to be greater than those from nature, however, and a violent visit leads to a fateful decision that shapes the family for decades to come.

Rasmussen was born and raised in the Midwest, and her descriptions of the Minnesota wilderness are poetic in their spare beauty. Nature has an almost mystical draw for the characters in Evergreen, most of whom look to it as a refuge rather than something to conquer. Nature can be cruel, but humans—with their messy emotions and ability to harm even those they love—can be even more devastating. It’s far from an uncommon message, but here it’s delivered with sensitivity and without sentimentality.

With its quiet beauty, deep compassion and strong emotional pull, Evergreen cements Rasmussen’s reputation as one of our most talented new writers.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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