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3.67  ·  Rating details ·  1,069 ratings  ·  220 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 294 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Grove Press, Black Cat
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Anuradha Rajkumari The first question that comes to mind is: are they murdered? Then comes: Are they raped? Then, if they are alive, what is their situation? Are they su…moreThe first question that comes to mind is: are they murdered? Then comes: Are they raped? Then, if they are alive, what is their situation? Are they suffering? (less)

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 ·  1,069 ratings  ·  220 reviews

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Angela M
Sep 18, 2015 rated it really liked it

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 dur
Elyse  Walters
Nov 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
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 fo
Aug 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
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 alternative ...more
Diane S ☔
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 i ...more
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
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 ha
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Jul 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Rae Meadows
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Holly Weiss
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 Io ...more
Feb 24, 2016 rated it liked it
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 organiza
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 unfrie
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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 experie ...more
Penny Schmuecker
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 retr ...more
Lissa Franz
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
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 f ...more
Steve Alspach
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 styl
Lolly K Dandeneau
Dec 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Emily Ross
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 beautifull ...more
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Kathleen Gray
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 RECO ...more
Davida Chazan
When I learned that Michelle Hoover based this historical fiction novel on a true family story about two girls who suddenly disappeared from their rural family home, I knew I had to read it. Find out why I have this book a strong four out of five stars in my review here. ...more
Dawn Tripp
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Bottomland is a stark and incandescent novel. A masterful work of fiction.
Mar 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 runaw
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 t ...more
Carol Thomas
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Aug 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 y ...more
Sharissa Jones
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jet Li
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Lauren Halster
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Cindy Burnett
Feb 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: net-galley
My favorite part of this novel was the setting. Hoover did a wonderful job describing the vast, desolate land where the Hess family chose to settle in the 1880’s. Her descriptions of the winters, the lack of many neighbors and the isolation felt by each member of the Hess family were fantastic. Overlaid on this rural, lonely existence is the added issue that the Hess family is German. Once World War I is looming, this detail creates added problems for them in a town where the family has already ...more
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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 Qui ...more

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