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At once intimate and sweeping, Bottomland—the anticipated second novel from Michelle Hoover—follows the Hess family in the years after World War I as they attempt to rid themselves of the Anti-German sentiment that left a stain on their name. But when the youngest two daughters vanish in the middle of the night, the family must piece together what happened while struggling to maintain their life on the unforgiving Iowa plains.

In the weeks after Esther and Myrle’s disappearance, their siblings desperately search for the sisters, combing the stark farmlands, their neighbors’ houses, and the unfamiliar world of far-off Chicago. Have the girls run away to another farm? Have they gone to the city to seek a new life? Or were they abducted? Ostracized, misunderstood, and increasingly isolated in their tightly-knit small town in the wake of the war, the Hesses fear the worst. Told in the voices of the family patriarch and his children, this is a haunting literary mystery that spans decades before its resolution. Hoover deftly examines the intrepid ways a person can forge a life of their own despite the dangerous obstacles of prejudice and oppression.

294 pages, Paperback

First published March 1, 2016

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About the author

Michelle Hoover

8 books316 followers
Michelle Hoover teaches writing at Brandeis University and Grub Street, where she leads the Novel Incubator program. She has been the Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University, a MacDowell Fellow, and the 2005 winner of the PEN/New England Discovery Award for Fiction. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and published in Best New American Voices. Her debut novel, The Quickening, was shortlisted for the Center for Fiction's Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, was a Finalist for the Indies Choice Debut of 2010 and Forward Magazine's Best Literary Book of 2010, and is a 2010 Massachusetts Book Award "Must Read" pick. Her second novel, Bottomland, is the 2017 All Iowa Reads selection. For more, go to www.michelle-hoover.com.

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5 stars
209 (18%)
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466 (41%)
3 stars
346 (30%)
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94 (8%)
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17 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 230 reviews
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,276 reviews2,213 followers
April 8, 2016

It's somber from the beginning and there is a heavy feeling of the burdens, the hardships of living in this remote farmland of Iowa . There's a pervasive loneliness too, even though there are 6 children in the Hess family. They have neighbors but it's a desolate place . The story centers around the disappearance of two of the sisters but Michelle Hoover has covered a lot more ground . As the novel unfolds the tough life on the farm, the prejudice against the family of these German immigrants during and after WWI , the impact of the war reflect the time and that place in this country . Then there are the things that living brings - accidents and death and relationships gone wrong .

The writing is quietly descriptive , almost stark and the author has skillfully woven this story through multiple first person narratives of five of the family members and at first it seems their thoughts are intimate enough. I thought I knew a bit about them and what was happening until I read the next narrative and the next and there seemed to be a bit of a disconnect or maybe it's just the omissions. It begins with Nan , the eldest who after her mother's death has given up a life of her own to take care of her three younger sisters . Jon Julius, the father tells us his story of immigrating to the US with their mother from Germany. The next narrative is Lee's , the youngest son who went to war, almost as a symbol of fidelity to the country by this German family . It's not until later in the book with Esther and Meryl's telling that we know why they left and what happened.

It's a heartbreaking story in some ways yet I felt good in the end . Thought provoking for sure.

Thanks to Grove Press and Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,921 reviews35.4k followers
November 4, 2015
The first thing I noticed when I began reading "Bottomland", was the feeling'
of the American prairie life.
Michelle Hoover made it easy to visualize the countryside, the Midwest,
and the ongoing Americanization of cultures into our land in the same way Willa Cather does. Michelle's writing is relentless and humane. This story of loss and hope will haunt you long after you're done reading it, and leave you with questions to ponder.

The Hess family, has been ostracized in their small community for being
German-American. This is post WWI. War and tragedy is pulling at their seams.

Teenagers, Esther and Myrle had been upset since their mother had died, but nobody in their family believed they would have just run off. ( not their father, or their other siblings). Being immigrants has had its hardships -prejudice and rejection... but is it possible the girls were taken by angry neighbors in their own town?

A search begins --
"This is not a place where people easily vanish. It is good clean earth for miles, straight as a table, our acres bordered by the river on one end and a rat of fenceline on the others, the distance between a long walk of cropland that takes more than a days plowing."
"In every direction our neighbors acres are the same – – more than a mile of farmland between us and the Clarks' to the west, the Elliots' to the south. In winters we don't lay eye on either family for weeks. The river between our acres and the Elliot's swallows its banks, higher from one season to the next."
"Bottomland, they call it, but the water could very well drown us."

This is a thoughtful, well written story of immigrant life on the plains and the resilience
and strength it took to survive both in their private lives and in the town they lived.

Thank You to Grove Atlantic, Netgalley, and Michelle Hoover
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,330 followers
February 28, 2016
3 1/2 stars. Bottomland by Michelle Hoover is a book to be read slowly and carefully. The language is deceptively simple, but the strength of the story is in the details one might miss if reading too quickly. Bottomland is set in the American Midwest starting in the early 20th century. At the beginning of the book, two teenage sisters disappear from their family farm. Their parents are of German descent, and they are the two youngest children in a family of six. The story is narrated alternatively from the points of view of different family members, and slowly we come to understand why the girls disappeared and what happened to them. The narratives don't match up perfectly, which is why it's important to read this book carefully to understand what's going on, and the different motivations of each character. When I finished reading Bottomland, I had to ask myself if I liked it. My answer wasn't instant and unreserved, which explains my 3 1/2 star rating rather than a 4 star rating. Hoover writes extremely well. Each point of view comes across strongly as its own subjective unique voice. She also conveys very powerfully the feelings of the time and place she describes -- a pervasive sense of sadness and starkness, the isolation and poverty of farm life at the time, the suspicion cast on German immigrants during WWI and after WWI, and the complex feelings between siblings vying for their place in the pecking order. But my appreciation was often more intellectual than emotional. This is an extremely well crafted novel, that didn't always reach my heartstrings. It's still very much worth reading. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,694 reviews14.1k followers
January 17, 2016
Early 20th century the Hess family lives on the desolate Iowa prairie. Life is hard, which Hoover dies a wonderful job describing, but they are able to eke out a living for the two sons and four daughters that are born into the family. Until WWI, when anti-German sentiment rears it's ugly head forcing the youngest son into the army in an attempt to save the family from the ugly feelings and actions of those on the other farms and in the town. A double tragedy will severely rock this family and in first person narratives we will read the stories of Lee, wounded in the army and the father and sisters left on the farm as well as the two sisters who seem to have mysteriously disappeared.

From the prairies to the city of Chicago, the rooming houses and garment district, a brilliant depiction of history and the fate of this family. The atmosphere of this book is outstandingly rendered, the characters brilliantly portrayed. I really liked this book even though the tone of much of it was rather dark. The revelations of the fate of the girls and how it happened is slowly unfolded and some of it was a surprise. Narrators are not always reliable but it was hard sorting out which ones were.

ARC from publisher.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :) .
977 reviews2,662 followers
February 22, 2016
The bleak, frozen landscape of an Iowa farm in the early 20th century is the setting for this historical mystery. A family of 8, mother, father, four girls and two boys are barely sustaining themselves on a farm that the German immigrants, the Hess family, settled after WWI. They are also living with the anti-German feelings of the townspeople transparent in the ways that they keep themselves separate from the town.

As the book opens, the family wakes up to find that the youngest two daughters have gone missing during the night. There is no way for them to know if they were abducted or ran away, their bedroom window was opened and a chair used to prop the bedroom door closed, as a way to keep the family guessing for longer what has happened to the girls. There is no note left behind and the other siblings seemed not to have a clue about the disappearance.

This is a very bleak, although tirelessly researched book, about life on the Iowa prairie during this time. There was a feeling of hopelessness as no matter how hard they worked there was never enough food or money for necessities for the family. The youngest son served in the Army but the family is still looked upon as foreigners because of their German background.

As the story breaks away and is told from the voices of Myrle and Ester we learn a lot of what the city of Chicago was like for the many young women who made their way there to try and start a new life. Jobs were few and many ended up working in the clothing industry, sewing for long 12 hour days making clothing that they couldn’t afford for themselves. The author does a great job creating the atmosphere of both the farm life and the city of Chicago with it’s rooming houses, sweat shops and lure of a better life. The multiple point of views help to flesh out the characters and lend emotion, dreams and views of day to day life that the reader will understand.

This novel, with it’s unique angle of mystery, creates an intriguing, if sometimes depressing, historical read. I would definitely recommend this book.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for LA Cantrell.
424 reviews542 followers
July 12, 2016
Suspenseful and somber tale of an early 20th century farm family living out by themselves on the plains. The story is narrated from the perspective of five of them., one after another. This thing is sad but impossible to turn away from because of the curiosity and slow-burn suspense concocted by the author. She is GOOD.

The parents are German immigrants who came to America with very little and went west where there was wide open land to be had for next to nothing. The only structure for the young couple to live in is a dugout - essentially a cave dug into the lone hill on the acreage and outfitted as a spare shelter, nothing more. Two decades and six children later, their hard work earns them a vital, prosperous farm, but when the first world war fires up, German immigrants and their bilingual children are not community favorites.

Because of how the book is set up, however, the reader does not know any of this backstory until the second of five sections opens up. Most of the book is told from the viewpoint of the children, primarily during their teens and young adulthood. I'm a no-spoilers kind of reviewer, so if you want more detailed information regarding characters and plot, pop over to the publisher's blurb.

That blurb will tell you this and a bit more. The primary event that kicks off the tale is the disappearance - abduction? elopement? runaway? accident? murder? - of two teenaged sisters from their family farm. The book probably falls into the category of "unreliable narrator" because like the blind men feeling the elephant, we get different pieces of the story depending upon which of the family members is telling the tale.

I will say this. If you have siblings, particularly if your relationship with them - or theirs with one another - is a bit convoluted, this book may feel very nostalgic to you. On the other hand, even if you've been dropped to earth via a pod from another planet, this book is still a winner. You'd have to be Superman to escape its emotional pull. 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Rae Meadows.
Author 6 books400 followers
April 2, 2016
What a beautiful, spare book. (It couldn't be more in my wheelhouse.) Although I felt some of the sections (each is a different character's pov) were stronger than others, I understand why the author structured it this way. The everyday struggle of life for this family in rural Iowa after WWI is told in such lyricism, such attention to the details of living. The heart of the novel is about girls and limited choices, and the yearning for more. Lovely.
Profile Image for Holly Weiss.
Author 3 books118 followers
February 5, 2016
Set in Iowa on a lonely farm, the book opens as two adolescent daughters, Myrle and Esther, vanish in the night. One girl’s bed is perfectly made, the other covered with disheveled blankets. An aura of foreboding and confusion is quickly established. As the mystery of their disappearance unfolds, we learn of the family’s history. German immigrant mother and father meet in New York City in the late 1800’s. Longing for a bit of soil to call theirs, the Hess family settles on an isolated farm in Iowa. As decades unfold, they fight anti-German sentiment stemming from World War I. A year after the end of the war the sound of the family’s German accent continues to brace the town against the perceived enemy.

Nan, the eldest sister, reveals the bleakness of the family’s existence. Her father, brothers and sisters are skin and bones. Feed for the steers is low, the potatoes growing in the garden are almost frozen, smoke from the neighbor’s chimney is barely visible in the whirling snow. Her sisters are gone without a word. A wooden chair lay on its side with a broken leg and a hammer covered with wood chips the only clues as to their whereabouts. Memories of what Nan’s mother would have done grimly floats through her brain. “I should have been wary of the stillness the next morning, but quiet in a house is a thing a woman likes to keep.”

• Did Myrle and Esther simply lose track of time and stay overnight in town?
• Had they pried loose the window their father had nailed shut?
• How could they withstand winter’s elements dressed only in thin cotton dresses?
• Were the girls taken by the townspeople to punish the family for being German?
• Did the sisters run away to begin a new life?
• How could they just vanish on a prairie where one could see for miles?

The struts of the book are poverty, alienation, resilience, and family ties. After the mystery of the disappearance is revealed a sense of foreboding is beautifully rendered. The remainder of the story, told through the various voices of family members, rewards the reader with a full understanding of the family dynamics. The sobering tale reveals itself subtly, but when it does, we are fully aware of the corrosive effects of a family desperately trying to stay intact in the wake of post-war persecution. Sweeping descriptions of the bleak prairie are masterfully written. Highly recommended.

I thank NetGalley for supplying the advance copy for my unbiased review.
Profile Image for Lynn.
1,230 reviews
December 3, 2015
I have just finished reading this intense story and I am breathless and speechless. I hardly have the words to describe this heartbreaking novel, though Hoover's command of the language is almost without precedent.

What can be taken from a family that has nothing to lose? The Hess family lives on the Iowa prairie in the early 20th century. A father, a mother, four girls, two boys. They are poorer than poor. As rumors of war begin to drift across the fields, long-time neighbors are suddenly unfriendly and suspicious of this "German" family.

One morning, two daughters are gone. Certainly they did not run away! Were they abducted? There are hints, no answers. All outside doors locked inside and out by a determined father, but a key comes up missing. A bedroom door barred from the inside by a chair. To keep someone in -- or to keep someone out? A window open that was nailed shut years ago. A hammer under the bed. Scuff marks on the outside of the house. The agony of not knowing.

Around this most heartwrenching core, everyone's worst nightmare, the story begins to unfold as the family members tell their stories and shed light on themselves and the lives of the missing girls.

I read this DARC courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,215 reviews551 followers
March 16, 2016
OK. You certainly do get insight into this family.

But so much left me puzzled. Being rejected by the neighbors for having German origin! They took that to heart in such a strange way. My Dad had his house egged bi-monthly between the world wars (he came in 1933) and his family did not respond that way. What made it worse is that his Dad was recruited for his mechanical skill when many Americans had no jobs. But they did not retreat into isolation, but joined. Much. Church, neighborhood organizations, music groups etc. Even the ones who did not want them. This novel's Hess family was not all that much "rejected", IMHO. Not even in the love match aspect- not for that era's sensibilities. In that era a worse rejection would be visible and consequential for just a difference of religion, for instance.

Also I was puzzled more than 3 or 4 times by the jumps in narrator and focus for continuity or connections. I wanted to know much more about the escaped girls and much less about their Father and his history. A bit more of the truth about Nan and her actual history (not just her thought pattern to her caretaker's role) might have been decent to include, as well.

Actually the portrayal of Chicago during this period also got me a bit peeved. Working 10 blocks from the lake on garments and within walking to Huron? No, I doubt it. No, impossible. Also by that time after WWI, garment industry was in the decline and that would not have been. Labor factions and fights galore, yes. But in Meatpacking, Candy, Tool Making trades etc.- all kinds of other piece work! Did she think she could substitute New York or Boston realities (garment making seated there) and just put them closer to Iowa?

I know, it's fiction- how picky! But sorry, this one lost me because it just was not held together with continuity to an era's reality. She can write. But she uses short, curt style. Phrases as much as sentences. Just like that. And her form pivots around the reader constantly having to "guess" progressions and information that are core to the outcomes. Within static voids of time skip or prime information omitted!

The concepts of the Bottomland (Iowa) with 2 feet of snow and the cow dead on the wired line was excellent. And the being lost between the outbuildings in a blizzard. Descriptions of certain moments were captured and that is why I gave it a 3. But Tom, Lee- those two especially? She definitely can conceptualize the female roles far more completely.

This style of writing is not my bag at all. Others will probably think it a read with far more depth than I did.
Profile Image for Penny Schmuecker.
43 reviews5 followers
February 27, 2016
Bottomland is the story of a German immigrant family living on an Iowa farmstead in the years preceding and following World War I. The author, Michelle Hoover, does an exceptional job in describing the isolation this family feels--the isolation that comes from living on the prairie and the also the isolation that is felt by being a German immigrant at a time when their neighbors look at them like they're the enemy and the government forbids them from speaking their native tongue. The family retreats into the life they've created and overcomes the prejudices and the cold stares of their neighbors and carve out a successful life for themselves amid the always watchful eyes of their neighbors.

The story itself revolves around the disappearance of two of the daughters, Esther and Myrle, who vanish in the middle of the night from the family farmhouse. As the search begins, the novel is divided into five parts with each of the parts written by a different family member. The details that each voice imparts give us a little more to the story and we have a full grasp on the events leading up to the girls' disappearance. The slow unwinding of the story keeps the reader engaged from page one and continues to the last page.

When I began this novel, I was transported back to the prairie of the early 1900's. Hoover does a fantastic job using the vernacular of both the settlers on this prairie and of the German immigrants whose English is their second language. It was so believable that I felt like I was in the sitting room of the farmhouse listening to the father, Jon Julius, tell his story of coming to the US as a German immigrant, from Ellis Island to the Iowa prairie. Later, as time passes, her writing changes to take on a more modern style, keeping up with the lives of the characters. I would imagine it would take a great deal of research to accurately capture with words the exact feel of times gone by, because it is with these words that she paints the canvas that is the life of the Hess family--and she does it in the most effective way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will recommend it to my fellow readers of historical fiction and to those who appreciate great storytelling. I believe Michelle Hoover is just that--an honest storyteller.

Thanks to NetGalley, Grove Atlantic, and the author for allowing me an advance copy of this novel.
Profile Image for Tara.
Author 22 books537 followers
May 29, 2016
I love Hoover's writing, and her portrayal of rural characters and her ability to make the setting its own character. Her second novel does not disappoint. Once again based loosely on one of her family stories, this is part mystery, part literary fiction. Two sisters go missing, and it takes a variety of chapters told in different povs to finally get the full story. Hoover has woven these individual stories into something like a family quilt. As someone who also had a German relative who experienced the backlash of prejudice after WW I, I was particularly interested in this part of the story, a little-known piece of history that I'm grateful to Hoover for exploring.
Profile Image for Lissa Franz.
169 reviews5 followers
March 11, 2016
A beautiful, haunting and incandescent novel - the characters are vivid and painfully real. Secrets are kept and tucked away, resulting in layers of intrigue. Hoover is deft with characters and their inner lives. Also with setting: the desolation of farm life, and the fierceness of spirit and the loyalty that it creates. This farm family protected and exposed one another, sometimes both at once. The resulting tenderness, even in hardship, is so compelling, as is Hoover's gorgeous prose.
Profile Image for Alena.
848 reviews219 followers
April 27, 2016
I'm so glad I didn't let the comparisons to Willa Cather dissuade me from reading this book. Hoover evokes the atmosphere of WWI Iowa and post-war Chicago with a sparseness that I found beautiful. This story of one immigrant family practically aches with loneliness, even while being told from multiple perspectives. While there a bit of a mysterious plot driving the story forward, this a quiet book that asked me to fill in the blanks and draw some of my own conclusions. I really liked it.
Profile Image for Sandy.
2,520 reviews60 followers
June 12, 2019
It’s the early 20th century and life on the Iowa prairie is rough and bleak but for this family, they also have to contend with their family’s history. The idea of war is looming and the neighbors surrounding this American-German family make sure that they are reminded of their heritage. Father tries to be neighborly, and I can see him biting his tongue after he tries to cordial with folks, for father is a hard-working man who is trying to make a life for his family and himself, trying to move forward.

All the children, there are a lot of them, have responsibilities to help run the household and its hard work. One morning, two of the girls don’t show up for breakfast and when it’s discovered they aren’t around the homestead, the family starts to wonder exactly what happened to them. There are a few ideas but what was interesting was the events leading up to the disappearance. They explain that one of the girls was more outgoing than the other one, who was a more predictable child and now that two of the children are missing, the responsibilities these children had around the house, will now have to be done by the remaining children.

With a few clues, the family decides how they will try to locate the girls which leaves the family even more shorthanded. This is life, they had to make due to survive, they had to depend on their family to come through. What happened to the girls and will they find them?

I read this book for book club and I was surprised how wrapped up I got in this novel. It was not a fast-paced novel nor was it a thriller, it moved rather slow but I think it was the mystery of what happened and the future of the family, that intrigued me. These girls were so young when they left, so why did they leave and why didn’t anyone see something? Was there a trigger that sent them off and how did they manage? As I read the story from the girl’s point of view as they fled and made their new life, I liked reading exactly what the girls had/were going through and I liked how the author put this together. I liked how things worked out in the end. It was an interesting and relaxing novel, actually a fast read for me.
Profile Image for Steve Alspach.
13 reviews
April 27, 2016
I happened to meet Michelle Hoover at the Book Cellar in Chicago where she did a reading from this book (in attendance: 7). It sounded interesting enough, so I got a copy. What I bought was a fascinating look at family life, and how the ties still bind over the years and as families change. The story is told through five of the main characters (the exception being a brief epilogue at the end), spreading over many years and between the family farm in Iowa and Chicago.

I really liked Hoover's style as a writer. She accurately echoes the "plain-speak" of the characters, and yet there are passages that I read more than once, partly to understand what was going on ("Wait...is this what I think is happening?" That's more me than the writer), but also to savor the language. The book is also suitable for high-school age kids, with a considerable lack of swearing (3 mild instances) and non-descript sex that serves only to develop the story. There are surprises in Bottomland, but nothing that's unbelievable enough to ruin the story.

I'll be looking forward to more of Michelle Hoover. She's a very talented writer and Bottomland is a rock-solid novel that is a mini-epic in its own right.
Profile Image for Lolly K Dandeneau.
1,836 reviews230 followers
February 8, 2016
How soon we forget how Germans were left with shame and shunning after the War. When the two youngest girls in the Hess family vanish, naturally the family suspects it could be the very townsfolk who hate them. Hoover puts the readers on the plains alongside the long suffering characters. Poverty, alienation, fear of the unknown is what drives this sad novel. Just what happened to the girls? Did they leave of their own free will? Slowly everything unravels and the conclusion is a resolution that left a tender ache.
"It is a strange thing to be a family of the missing. Deaths are commonplace. But a disappearance- it has the scent of murder in it, and there was little we could do to absolve ourselves." The same could be said for the 'sin' of the Hess family being German too.
Hoover has beautifully placed the reader inside the minds and struggles of each character. It takes a while to claw your way into the story, but when you get there it's worth it.
Lovely and heartbreaking.
Profile Image for Emily Ross.
Author 1 book75 followers
December 31, 2016
This lyrical and haunting novel about a German American farm family whose two daughters go missing, swept me up from the moment I started it and never let go. Hoover evokes life on an Iowa farm so vividly I felt I was there experiencing the sweeping vistas, the grueling long days, and the isolation of being German American during World War I. There is closeness in the Hess family but there are also devastating distances. By telling this story from five different points of view, Hoover beautifully captures how the truth about a family is never just one story, but the sum of many perspectives. Weaving together elements of mystery and historical fiction, Bottomland is a remarkable book that illuminates another time and our own. I highly recommend it!
Profile Image for Susan.
Author 1 book240 followers
April 24, 2016
BOTTOMLAND is hewn from the hard stuff—isolation, desire, suspicion, exhaustion, jealousy. Michelle Hoover has pieced together a novel less like a puzzle fit perfectly and more like a tower with each section reliant on the others but also requiring what is not there for its structure. Each of the multiple narrators has her or his own story to tell, a role to play, yet—as in real life—those narrators can't fully know how their actions reverberate, sometimes over a lifetime. The writing is spare yet transporting, the story so compelling. I could not stop looking at the picture of Hoover's ancestors that inspired the novel. Lovely read.
Profile Image for Melissa.
320 reviews19 followers
January 25, 2016
Thanks to Netgalley for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

A German immigrant couple settles down in Iowa in the late 1800s and raises a family while also building and working their farm. In the midst of a peaceful rural life, the author adds mystery and drama, when two of the daughters disappear overnight. The novel follows the remaining family members and eventually catching up with the missing sisters.

I wasn't totally in love with the story, but it kept me reading, so I give it 3.5 stars.
9,477 reviews83 followers
February 8, 2016
I only wish I'd taken this off my shelf earlier ! Thank to Grove for the ARC- I haven't read Hoover before but will definitely look for her in the future. What an atmospheric novel this is, in a setting and during an era we don't often read about. Suffused early on with sadness, it ends on a hopeful and positive note. I liked that the story was told from the perspective of multiple family members This is an original and thoughtful book that has a lot to say about the power of family. HIGHLY RECOMMEND this one!!
Profile Image for Dawn Tripp.
Author 4 books189 followers
February 28, 2016
Bottomland is a stark and incandescent novel. A masterful work of fiction.
Profile Image for Patsy.
152 reviews3 followers
March 28, 2016
This is the first time I have read a Michelle Hoover book and I look forward to reading more of her work.

The Hess family has immigrated to America and claimed farm land in Iowa after World War II. However, their German name causes neighbors to mistrust them so they keep as much distance as possible from neighbors. Which is not hard to do as all the farms have several hundred acres. One night, the youngest two daughters vanish in the middle of the night. Not knowing if they were abducted or runaways, the family searches for them with very little help from the townspeople. All the while, the remaining family not only struggles with the loss of the two girls, they must also work to survive and maintain the farm in a harsh country with fewer helping hands.

Brother, Lee, even goes to Chicago in attempts to find the girls. Each section of the book is told in the voice of the father and each of the children. The story is a haunting piece that weaves a decades-long mystery. This is a moving story of the powerful hold of family for some, while others go to extremes to find a life of their own.

I liked the ending of this book. All of the mysteries were resolved. Not necessarily as I had guessed or even hoped for, but still resolved. As the story concluded and I discovered what happens with the characters, I found myself moved with sadness for the people but also satisfied with the resolutions. The epilogue is very moving as it expresses in a haunting yet beautiful way the "pull" of family; even those family that we never get to meet.
Profile Image for Jen.
625 reviews36 followers
March 2, 2016
The Hess family wakes up one morning on their Midwestern farm to find the two youngest daughters have vanished. The door to their room has been jammed shut from the inside, and the window is open, and no one seems to have seen them leave. As the family begins to search for the girls, the family history unravels - from their parents' meeting one another as young German immigrants in New York to the town's treatment of the family as World War I begins to the death of the family matriarch, all of their stories are poured out to the reader in the process of revealing what happened to Esther and Myrle, and how all of those events inevitably led to the girls' disappearance.

This book has a part for nearly every member of the Hess family to tell their piece of the story, and once you put them all together, you get a near complete picture. The story begins with great tension, and then that mystery opens up other mysteries, until the entire bones of the Hess family life are laid bare. I was captivated throughout my reading of the book!
156 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2016
This novel takes place in Iowa right after WW I in a rural community with a first-generation German family settled on a farm. Most of the book takes place in a time when the mother has died, leaving a forever-grieving father and five growing-up children struggling to keep the farm together and keeping the anti-German hostility at bay.

The two youngest children disappear one evening from their room; the remainder of the book is about discovering what happened to them.

In my opinion, the book takes a long time to engage its reader -- about a third of the book. From then on the tale is told by various members of the family, and the book becomes engaging. If I had not been determined to finish the book, I might not have stuck with it.

I'm glad I did; it was a satisfying read.
March 29, 2016
Bottomland is a gorgeous, haunting novel. Hoover's prose evokes the desolateness of the Great American plains and how that vast land shaped the immigrants who deigned to settle it. From a cow frozen in a barbed wire fence to the feel of the weeds in an untamed river, we are swept into a complex world through the most deceptively simple details. At each turn, the characters are so perfectly wrought that though we may wish a different life for them, their fates are inevitable. Hoover is a master. Savor this one.
Profile Image for Crystal King.
Author 5 books418 followers
March 21, 2016
Michelle Hoover's sophomore book is one that will snatch you up right from the first page, which begins with two girls going missing from a farmhouse in rural Iowa. Hoover is a master of creating a sense of place and you can envision every aspect of the journey that these characters take the reader upon. Told from the point of view of five different family members, Bottomland is a book that should move up to the top of your TBR pile.
Profile Image for Jet Li.
5 reviews1 follower
May 17, 2016
Michelle Hoover is an exceptional writer. Her second novel, Bottomland, is exquisite. She writes pages, paragraphs, sentences that you want to read slowly so you don't miss a single nuance, or even go back and reread immediately, and yet you want to move forward and keep turning pages because the story they tell is mesmerizing. Hats off to this dear woman for producing such a beautiful, dark jewel.
8 reviews18 followers
August 6, 2018
Really underrated, perhaps because it's a little quiet, or perhaps because of the rural setting. I'm a city girl, but I loved this.
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