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Hard Red Spring

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  186 ratings  ·  54 reviews
An ambitious and unforgettable epic novel that spans a hundred years of Guatemala’s tumultuous history as experienced by four American women who are linked by the mysterious disappearance of a little girl
In 1902, a young girl watches her family’s life destroyed by corrupt officials and inscrutable natives. In 1954, the wife of the American ambassador becomes trapped in
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published March 29th 2016 by Viking (first published March 15th 2016)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  186 ratings  ·  54 reviews

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Tom Mathews
I’ve always thought that fiction was the way to approach Guatemala. You see, there are more lies than truth in the history of that little country.
The above quote, buried deep within the pages of her novel, gives readers a sense of what author Kelly Kerney had in mind when she wrote this book.

Hard Red Spring is an ambitious historical novel covering one-hundred years of American intervention in Guatemalan affairs. It begins with a volcanic eruption that, by presidential decree, did not happe
Mar 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, giveaways
3.5 stars

This book is ambitious, and well-structured. Unfortunately, it feels like it's missing its soul.

The story follows American women in Guatemala, but it really is about many more women, as many Guatemalan women as American. The takeaway seems to be that Guatemala will destroy you, whether you're an Amerian woman or a Guatemalan.

Evie Crowder is a six year old girl, whose parents have come to make their fortune. Her mother doubts they will succeed, and intends to head home; her father insis
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: amazon-vine, 2015
Where do I begin with my review of this multi-dimensional and dynamic novel? For starters, Kerney’s narrative style, linking the mysterious disappearance of a young American girl in 1902 Guatemala, into the lives of three other women – the American ambassador’s wife, Dorie in a turbulent Cold War 1950’s Guatemala; Lenore, an evangelical missionary in the early 1980’s still beset by civil war; and Jean, a middle aged single parent who brings her adopted Mayan daughter for a “Roots Tour” designed ...more
May 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned
This book was skim read after page 190. It's not poorly written in a flow or grammar sense, but I completely disliked the continuity format and the majority of the characters. It was dismal, morose and often threatening in tone or context. Or else in a couple of sections too preachy for me as if it were a voice of a professor lecturing events from a "afterwards" theory or progression study. My enjoyment was 2 star or less. Having read numerous other Central and South American, I found the majori ...more
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: r-pfr, r-ng
Hard Red Spring by Kelly Kerney is a century long history of Guatemala told through eyes of four expatriates in four different time periods. The book turns factual history into an emotional, memorable fictional story. The connections between the people follow through all four sections, keeping the story line going, but the focus throughout remains the place.

Read my complete review at:

Reviewed based on a publisher’s galley received through NetGalley and fo
May 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Having grown up in Guatemala, made this a very hard read in a lot of ways. To read again about the USA governments involvement in many of the horrific things that happened in Guatemala's history, along with Guatemala's own corrupt governments was sad.
The author gives a historical timeline at the end of the book from 1900 to 2015.
This book was divided into four time periods, 1902, 1954, 1983, and 1999. All describing a major part of Guatemala's history and of USA involvement.
The main characters i
Jun 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Author Kelly Kerney has attempted an epic undertaking -- encompassing one hundred years of Guatemalan economic and political history through the experiences of four American women. She picks four key years and events, in 1902, 1954, 1984 and 1999 and four very different women: an eight year old child whose father is trying to grow wheat, the wife of the American ambassador, a born-again missionary and a single mom introducing her adopted Guatemalan daughter to the land of her birth. In each inst ...more
Alejandra Cromer
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I am not sure if this will be the case for most, but I was (to an extent) familiar with the history of Guatemala and the role the US Government played. That said, spoilers below.

I would give this a 3.5, but since there are no half stars I bumped it up because I think the history in this story is so important.

This book left me wanting more. I liked the way each chapter is focused on a different part of Guatemala's history from varying viewpoints. Each chapter just ends abruptly at the climax, af
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own-audible
I could not get into this book and found myself truly not caring what happened to the characters.
Bob H
Jul 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a sprawling, dark, often murky story of Americans in Guatemala, in four episodes set in the country's history, 1902, at a time of agricultural uncertainty; 1954, on the eve of a U.S.-backed coup; 1984, during the civil war that followed that coup; and in 1999, after the peace accord. It's told through the Americans who are on a leading edge of American intrusion, the failed first wave of planters, the diplomats who represent the American fruit monopoly as much as the embassy, the evangel ...more
Thomas Keech
Aug 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There are some unforgettable moments in this book: the U.S. ambassador pimping teenage Guatemalan maids for wealthy U.S. businessmen; an eight-year-old orphan Mayan boy given to European planters not as an adopted son but as a houseboy to do with as they wished; a completely fake civil war enacted so as to instigate a real one; a fundamentalist religious mission that begins to resemble a concentration camp. It’s mind-blowing, especially when you realize it’s all based on truth.

I thought the writ
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, especially the mystery of Evie that runs all the way through it and the way all the characters are connected and reappear when you least expect them to. I read this after I read The Poisonwood Bible and found it similar (in the sense that both books share a general theme of how religion + US Cold War politics does more harm than good in third-world countries--Guatemala in this case). Most of all, I'd really like to commend the author for doing the amount of research I ...more
Susan Halvor
I’d give this book 3, maybe 3.5 stars. What I appreciated most was how well researched this book was, and the way the author, through the eyes of the four primary white female characters, explored some of the complexities of relationships between U.S. women and Guatemalans, against the backdrop of Guatemalan history and U.S. involvement. The stories helped me grasp the 100-year span of Guatemalan history that the book covers. But the book is also perhaps overly ambitious; the many loose ends lef ...more
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
The first three would have been wonderful stand alone narratives on their own (4th is less strong), but all together they elevate and define each other nicely. I would actually recommend reading the historical timeline at the end, first. It would have helped the political references be incorporated into the narrative better for the reader. Really well researched and lovingly presented.
Linda Hudson
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a hard truth to learn

living in Guatemala and having friends who survived the genocide made this very hard to read. A first hand testimonio can be found in Escaping the fire by Tomas cuzaro

Sep 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Bought this at the dollar store & read it in fits & starts at the beach. An interesting book. It’s basically 4 short stories over time with different, vaguely related characters.

Really liked the female perspective as well as the setting in Guatemala.
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A solid 4 even a 4.5 and I am stingy with my stars. I learned so much from this novel I highly recommend it.
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wow. I rate a book heavily on the subject matter, enjoying learning about something I know very little about. Take one third world country, Guatemala here, and add too many antagonists :greedy outside governments, dictators, the military, guerillas, religion and missionaries, big business (more greed), communists. What a mess. Maybe GREED is the base problem here.
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, haunting and powerful. Must read for those who don't know about the history of US intervention in Guatemala, told through a connected thread of generations of women.
Rachel Rothwell
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very violent, traumatic book about Guatemala from 1902-1999. A bit confusing in places but a very helpful and upsetting timeline of Guatemala shown at the end.
Jeffrey Brown
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Marvelous writing engrossing tale. Page turner. Love her work
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book took place in the backdrop of the tensions between the Mayan natives, people of Spanish descent in Guatemala, and the influence of American citizens and American politics. This book consists of four stories spanning over a 100 years. It is ultimately about a missing girl. Her story is told throughout three other stories that build off each other in connecting 4 different families of different generations into one storyline.
Overall I would rate this book three and a half stars out of
Feb 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my review.

This was more of a 3.5 for me, but I bumped it up because I think this is an important book that should be read simply because of its subject.

This is a very hard-hitting book. Kerney brings the 100 years of strife in Guatemala to life, and does not hold any punches in the process. It also, ultimately, shows what happens to native peoples who get in the way of big business and big government. It also s
Cresta McGowan
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Admittedly I've not read many novels set outside the United States or Europe. Most fiction seems to fall into the lands where the history is plentiful and language is simple, and understood - English.

Hard Red Spring brings to life a world I did not understand existed with a tortured history of the indigenous people and the struggle to preserve their lives.

Evie Crowder narrates the tale as the novel begins after an abrupt move from her home in New York. Her mother and father attempt to help her
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic novel. The four plot lines following four American women are intricately wound together and intriguing enough in their own right.. however, when you couple that with the historical context, the story really starts to come alive.

In 1902, we follow a young American girl as her family's business and livelihood falls apart after the Santa Maria volcano erupts. In 1954, we follow a naive, hopeful American ambassadors wife and her affair with her husband's business partner during the coup d
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Intriguing, complex and full of fascinating Guatemalan history. I would have given 5 stars except it was not always clear what was happening and was somewhat hard to follow.
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Hard Red Spring is a strain of wheat, which James Crowder believed in 1902 would flourish and sustain the Guatemalan people who were frequently starving. His error--one of many--was not understanding that the Maya believe corn to be sacred and themselves to be made of corn. Eating wheat would be to deny their very selves. Similar misconceptions thread through the story, but who can be surprised in a land so surreal that the government sends a band to drown out the sound of an erupting volcano so ...more
Angie Reisetter
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: firstreads
Four episodes at significant moments in Guatemala's history, each focused on an American girl or woman in Guatemala. There are strains of a common storyline -- the little girl from the first is mentioned in each episode -- but that is not the most important story here. It's clearly an effort -- a successful one -- to bring some of the most important conflicts in Guatemala's 20th century history. The main characters are naive. Their men despicable. Perhaps they started despicable, maybe the confl ...more
Feb 05, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 star rating
Hard Red Spring is an historical fiction novel set in Guatemala in the 1900s about a missing American child. I really enjoyed the writing style. It was really easy to fall into the story. Thought it was set in Guatemala the book was told through the perspectives of American women. Hard Red Spring was intriguing and beautifully written. There were also strong characters and character development and the underlying themes were done very well without being too obvious. The setting Wa
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Hard Red Spring, by Kelley Kerney, provides even more proof that fiction is better than textbooks for putting oneself into the shoes of people who lived in other places, at other times. So much information is conveyed in this book that I feel like I’ve had a college course on Guatemala’s history, but the characters brought the heartbreak home in a way that no course could have done. Hard Red Spring is told in four parts, focusing on four different American girls and women, who have come to live ...more
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Kelly Kerney is an American novelist. Her first novel, Born Again, was published in 2006.

After having been raised in a Pentecostal Church, Kerney graduated from Bowdoin College in 2002 and later received her MFA from the University of Notre Dame.

Born Again follows an evangelical Christian who comes to terms with evolution. The novel received several positive reviews, including ones from Entertainm

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