Hot with violent urgency, and shrouded in the moss and fog of the rural Northwest, Vera Violet opens with the eponymous Vera on the run someplace deep in Montana, and does not let up until the final page. In between is something like the root system of a tall cedar, or the wiring Harness on an old pickup: tangled at first glance, but intricate as soon as you start to trace it. This is an unforgettable novel.
Set against the backdrop of a decaying Pacific Northwest lumber town, Vera Violet is a debut that explores themes of poverty, violence, and environmental degradation as played out in the young lives of a group of close–knit friends. Melissa Anne Peterson’s voice is powerful and poetic, her vision unflinching.
Vera Violet recounts the dark story of a rough group of teenagers growing up in a twisted rural logging town. There are no jobs. There is no sense of safety. But there is a small group of loyal friends, a truck waiting with the engine running, a pair of boots covered in blood, and a hot 1911 pistol with a pearl grip.
Vera Violet O’Neel’s home is in the Pacific Northwest—not the glamorous scene of coffee bars and craft beers, but the hardscrabble region of busted pickups and broken dreams. Vera’s mother has left, her father is unstable, and her brother is deeply troubled. Against this gritty background, Vera struggles to establish a life of her own, a life fortified by her friends and her hard–won love. But the relentless poverty coupled with the twin lures of crystal meth and easy money soon shatter fragile alliances.
Her world violently torn apart, Vera flees to St. Louis, Missouri. There, alone in a small apartment, she grieves for her broken family, her buried friends, and her beloved, Jimmy James Blood. In this brilliant, explosive debut, Melissa Anne Peterson establishes herself as a fresh, raw voice, a writer to be reckoned with.
""Vera Violet is the most authentic and exciting debut I've read in a long time. At once gritty and jaw–droppingly lyrical, Peterson's voice is a clarion call for the downtrodden and disenchanted. Reading Vera Violet is nothing less than a visceral and stirring experience."" —Jonathan Evison, author of Lawn Boy
About the Author
Melissa Anne Peterson grew up in a rainy working–class logging town in Washington State. She received a BA and BS in writing and biology from The Evergreen State College and an MS from the University of Montana. She has worked in endangered species recovery in Washington and Montana for twelve years. Her writing has been published by Camas Magazine, Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment, Oregon Quarterly, and Seal Press. Find out more at melissaannepeterson.com.
One of CrimeReads's Most Anticipated Books of the Year
“A tragic love story and a gritty drama.” —Siobhan Jones, The New York Times Book Review
“Poetic in its description of how capitalist society fails the poor . . . The sense of place in the novel is palpable, the treatment of its characters empathetic and complex . . . Vera Violet is a compelling read from a potent new voice.” —Sarah Neilson, The Seattle Times
“Thematically Vera Violet isn't a happy, or easy, read. But as literature it is beautiful, for all its grit and sorrow. Peterson snaps off sharp, rapid–fire sentences, then contrasts them with longer, poetic phrases that catch the reader's breath. For those of us who have grown up on the fringes of the more celebrated aspects of this part of the country, of the so–called 'American Dream,' the characters and their circumstances are all too familiar. Peterson honors those experiences, even as she makes no effort to glorify them. What she does is humanize the experience in a way that only someone who has lived them can do.” —Chris LaTray, Missoulian
"A coming-of-age story rife with drama, lyricism, and grit." —Audrey Barbakoff, 425 Magazine
“Powerful . . . In the way incessant rainfall can be a mesmerizing and devastating force, Vera Violet is too.” —Barbara Lloyd McMichael, Coast Weekend
“The writing is lyrical and airy, the subject matter heavy and visceral. This is another quick read, and a rough one, demanding that the reader not look away from the realities of how capitalism fails rural America (and really, all of us).” —Electric Literature, 1 of 15 New Books for Your Winter Mood
“Vera Violet possesses the kind of energy that only comes from experience . . . Raw and important.” —Bethanne Patrick, Literary Hub
“Dark and explosive . . . The novel offers no easy solutions but rather delves into the psychology of poverty and the vicious cycles that come with trying to survive. There's no preaching. Instead, Peterson brings life to a host of memorable characters whose struggles are seared into readers' brains. Vera Violet announces the arrival of a new writer who is comfortable with her craft and knows how to relay a story in vivid and affecting detail. Vera Violet packs a powerful punch.” —Scott Neuffer, Shelf Awareness
“Early on in Melissa Anne Peterson’s Vera Violet, Vera says, 'An ocean of writhing, living blood surged between us. It enveloped the parking lot. It discolored the moon . . . It was dangerous and confusing. But there was no choice.' Gripped by Vera’s dark world, you may feel exactly the same thing, pulled in as these kids are themselves, swept along despite the danger, wanting only to feel alive. Like Niall Griffith’s Grits or Kelly + Victor, Vera Violet will leave you hoping against hope for these lost lives.” —Pete Fromm, author of A Job You Mostly Won't Know How to Do
“Vera Violet is raw, unflinching, and above all necessary. As the storyline spans the country and scoops up those both broken and beautiful, Peterson gives voice to the unheard and overlooked with an honesty few writers come close to achieving. This is writing that is lyrical in the way a caged animal is lyrical: fierce with a soleness of purpose, distilled, unadorned, and unapologetically alive.” —Melissa Mylchreest, author of Waking the Bones
“Vera Violet is the most authentic and exciting debut I've read in a long time. At once gritty and jaw–droppingly lyrical, Peterson's voice is a clarion call for the downtrodden and disenchanted. Reading Vera Violet is nothing less than a visceral and stirring experience.” —Jonathan Evison, author of Lawn Boy
“Mel Peterson is the literary voice of the dispossessed Pacific Northwest youth that we've come to know so well through song. Vera Violet is a fantastic debut.” —Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill