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Prairie Silence: A Memoir

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  443 ratings  ·  92 reviews
A rural expatriate’s struggle to reconcile family, home, love, and faith with the silence of the prairie land and its people
Melanie Hoffert longs for her North Dakota childhood home, with its grain trucks and empty main streets. A land where she imagines standing at the bottom of the ancient lake that preceded the prairie: crop rows become the patterned sand ripples of th
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  443 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. - Anaïs Nin

author Melanie Hoffert takes us on a journey back to her roots in rural America where she is "not ready to be exposed" as a lesbian and where "anything not visible in North Dakota is probably abnormal."
a child of the North Dakota prairie, Melanie moves to Minneapolis to pursue her career. a call from her friend Melissa sparks something within her and Melanie decides to take a
Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I didn't know a lot about this book. Just that a girl goes home from "the Cities" to rural North Dakota to farm for a month. It's so much more than that and I am so thankful that it is. It's a book about coming out. It's a book about religion and spirituality. I highlighted on my Kindle until the ink ran out! ( you didn't know that can happen?).
Hoffert weaves word brilliantly, but she also is incredibly gifted at painting pictures with them. I look forward to more from her. Especially would lik
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As a city girl who moved to the ND/MN prairie boarder for college, I stole into this book with pleasure from the beginning; Melanie's relatable and approachable voice compliments her descriptive and moving story. This book really does cover the truth of inner-being and disconnect between that and the outer world, and especially for Melanie, a silent home, ND. It was a pleasure meeting her in person--her book-voice is so very true to her personality and being. I commend her for writing with and f ...more
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wildwood-book
When I finished the book, I was full of questions and emotions and reflections, both for the author and myself. As time passed I kept thinking about it and going back to my relationships with family, siblings and high school best friends. I had to "up" my stars from 4 to 5 because it keeps sticking with me. Melanie was so open and generous in sharing her personal experience, it really impacts you to review your own secrets and determine if it is silence or peace or neutrality and how that impact ...more
Linda Ethier
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Melanie Hoffert's memoir was written with so much beautiful, intimate feeling, that I couldn't help but be drawn into it. I could identify so well with her lingering desire for the small town in which she grew up, as well as the discomfort she feels with its lack of anonymity. In this book, Hoffert describes her month-long return to the family farm so that she can examine and write about these conflicting feelings, while weaving in the story of her earlier years and her current "real" life. ...more
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Such a truly open, beautiful personal journey intermixed with the rich purity of rural North Dakota life. Amazing.
Zane Hesting
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I would have given this book three stars for horizontal story line interest, and four stars for the vertical movement we all love in memoir. I gave it four stars because I can relate to so much in this book being from the Midwest, myself. But I wondered if the scenes in "harvest retreat" she embarks on were vivid enough for readers outside of the prairie biome? This book is about people, while the prairie plays in the background, and I enjoyed that. This book has such a great commentary on love, ...more
Laura Zimmerman
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was able to read this book thanks to a Goodreads giveaway. I appreciate the author's willingness to send it to me in exchange for an honest review.

Prairie Silence is a book that, admittedly, took me a while to read. Not because there was anything I didn't like about the book but rather because of its slow pace. Ms Hoffert writes well and her lyrical descriptions paint vivid images in the reader's mind. She is able to create a feeling of calm and expansiveness with her words, a skill that few w
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
Prairie Silence is Melanie Hoffert's memoir in which she details her struggle to find who she is and determine how she fits in the community that she is used to and finds, after being away, that she loves.

I admire Ms. Hoffert's journey. Specifically the way she talks about how experiences in her life, such as her first female sexual encounter, have shaped the person that she has become. I also found it interesting that although she has traveled away and has finally found her identity, she still
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Hoffert offers an intriguing exploration as to why the prairie (in this case, rural North Dakota) treasures silence, and how someone who doesn't necessarily want to stay silent deals with that unwritten rule.

This is a "going back home" memoir--Hoffert wants to gain insights into this place that made her. A place that she feels tied to, even though she left for a big city as soon as she could. But she can't turn her back on her roots, even though being gay in North Dakota is a big reason why she
Nancy Rossman
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have to disclose that my initial interest in this story is that the author is a farm girl, as am I. Her deep sense of a connection to the land and to animals comes from her upbringing, which I completely understand. She never loses the connection to North Dakota, even feeling a need to defend when people learn of this and say, "Wow, really? Why? Is it as bleak as everyone says?" to which she is horrified. (I grew up in rural Ohio and get some of that so often that it made me laugh)

Melanie has
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-memoir
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dennis Deery
Feb 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book!

Author Melanie Hoffert grew up in a small town in North Dakota. She realized at an early age that she was gay, but kept this fact hidden from her family and community for many years. Like so many rural kids, once she grew up she left her community for the big city, in this case the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

Again, like many rural kids, once she'd created a life in the city she began to look back to her hometown with some longing. She decides to return home for a harvest
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I began reading this, I didn’t know it was written by someone who graduated from my alma mater four years before I did! I picked this up at a great little bookstore in my hometown because it took exactly one glance at the cover (“a rural expatriate’s journey to reconcile home, love, and faith”) for me to know it would resonate. And it did. Hoffert writes beautifully about her longing for the prairie of her childhood and the struggles she faces returning as an adult.

I think anyone who has lo
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a great book! I can relate to so many things Melanie discusses, especially the silence of growing up in a small, midwestern town, where everyone is judging you, but no one talks about it! Mel explores love, family, religion and sexuality with profound wisdom and there were many times I wanted to underline a thought so that I could remember it later. Well done for her first book! I recommend it highly!
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
2013. 249 pages

My friends recommendation was well worth the read and trust of her judgement. This book has man inferences to what "silence" means. The silence of the prairie, the silence of ones sexuality, the silence of a family dinner, the silence of a broken relationship, and the silence of ones empty heart. How does one confront what is missing or thinks is missing, you go back home to Re-evaluate from the beginning. Great book.
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: prairie, 2014
A story of loving the prairie and leaving; a story of being gay and not knowing if it is safe to share that in one's home land; a story of returning home and finding reconciliation; a story of love for the land and the people of North Dakota. A beautifully told memoir. I hope to hear from Hoffert again. ...more
Pat Peiffer
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Wonderful read with many insights and descriptive language. I would recommend to anyone who has grown up in the Midwest.
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book. I am from the Midwest and connected with the story in a lot of ways. Good read I recommend it.
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Definitely identified with her experiences, told my spouse to read it to better understand me.
Andrea Badgley
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Growing up gay in a land where nobody talks about feelings, nobody was (publicly) gay, and where everyone is Christian is... hard. Prairie Silence is Melanie Hoffert's memoir of being pulled to the land of North Dakota, back to her childhood farm, the golden prairie, and the solid people of her home to finally break her own silence. She describes the landscape in the exact ways I love to read.

The flat land is not dry, not dark, not lifeless. Instead, North Dakota is a painter's palette where all
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a lovely memoir about life, love, and faith from an expatriated small town girl. I have a very good friend who has lived a similar life: a lesbian from a tiny town in conservative North Dakota. She also has been surprisingly (to her) accepted by the people in her hometown, the ones she was so afraid to tell, to speak her truth. And though I know my friend’s story, I felt like this book really gave me even more insight into the struggle her life was for so many years; hiding her true self fr ...more
Apr 12, 2020 rated it liked it
My take on this book is split - technically, the author’s mission is accomplished by delivering a considered memoir. There were a couple word choices struck me as odd, which disrupted the flow, and eventually the central question of coming home/coming out felt harped upon. Otherwise, the technical execution of “memoir” worked.
The split part of my take is that as someone from an equivalent, though Canadian prairie, albeit a big city as opposed to a small rural community, I feel like any evaluatio
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow! I asked for a book to help me better understand the struggles of the LGBT+ community. This book is so much more than that. It is about the depopulated Midwest rural communities, about farm life, about small town/small church Lutheranism, about the Ag. economy. This book has so much to say about what life is like where I live and a little something to say about being gay in rural America. Uff Da, what a good book.
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read Melanie's book when it was published in Hamline's library as her MFA thesis, when it read more like a collection of essays. Now, as a MN Book winning memoir, her story is fleshed out and told through a journeywoman's quest to return home and relearn the family farm business. I liked her honesty and self reflection about growing up gay and Godly in North Dakota, a land of stoic, silent people. ...more
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction, lgbtq
I stumbled upon this book by accident. I typed "lesbian cowboys" in the library catalog search on a whim, and this was the single result. I checked it out knowing nothing about it and not sure what to expect, but I'm glad I did — this is an amazing piece of writing about home, spirituality, and understanding who you are. ...more
Sep 26, 2020 rated it liked it
I always like a book that you can find certain parts very relatable, in this case growing up North Dakota, but from a different perspective such as Hoffert's struggles with faith, small town life, and her sexuality. ...more
Mar 16, 2021 rated it liked it
It was nice to escape to rural North Dakota and relish in the prairie landscape, but the writing style itself left much to be desired (superfluous use of metaphor, lots of telling rather than showing, cliche aphorisms, etc.).
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Melanie Hoffert grew up on a farm near Wyndmere, North Dakota where she spent her childhood meandering gravel roads, listening to farmers at church potlucks, and daydreaming about impossible love. She has an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University, where The Silent Land received the Outstanding Creative Nonfiction Thesis Award. Her essay Going Home won the Creative Nonfiction Award from Th ...more

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“Dad never missed a day of work, regardless of how late he had been out the night before. The intensity of Dad’s dependability, I have always thought, has something to do with an almost genetically present sense of duty in people who work the land.” 1 likes
“This history argument holds absolutely no weight with my dad. He’s not sentimental in this way, does not linger on the past. Old stuff, in Dad’s mind, means less efficiency, more work, more to repair. But for me the barn is what makes the farm so—“farm-y.” 0 likes
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