Karen Russell’s new novel, a fantastical Dust Bowl epic, sounds amazing.

Literature
Dan Sheehan

September 13, 2023, 2:33pm

Corral the performing gators, rouse the lemon grove vampires, and release the wolf girls, because Karen Russell—the Pulitzer Prize finalist, MacArthur fellow, and multi award-winning Floridian fantasist—has written a new novel (her first since 2011’s Swamplandia!) and it sounds, well, incredible:

Karen Russell’s THE ANTIDOTE opens on Black Sunday, as a historic dust storm ravages the fictional town of Uz, Nebraska. But Uz is already collapsing—not just under the weight of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl drought, but beneath its own violent histories. The novel follows a “Prairie Witch,” whose body serves as a bank vault for peoples’ memories and secrets; a Polish wheat farmer who learns how quickly a hoarded blessing can become a curse; his orphan niece, a basketball star and witch’s apprentice in furious flight from her grief; a voluble scarecrow; and a New Deal photographer whose time-traveling camera threatens to reveal both the town’s secrets and its fate.

The novel is above all a reckoning with a nation’s forgetting—enacting the settler amnesia and willful omissions passed down from generation to generation, and unearthing not only horrors but shimmering possibilities. This gripping Dust Bowl epic echoes with urgent warnings for our own climate emergency, challenging readers with a vision of what might have been—and what still could be.

The Antidote was sold, along with a short story collection (!!!), to Knopf, for publication in 2025.

To my mind, any new work by Russell—rightly dubbed “one of the great American writers of our young century“—is cause for wild and uproarious celebration, and this new novel sounds particularly special.

2025 can’t come soon enough.

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