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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Knife River

ISBN: 9780593447208

Publisher: Random HOuse

Publication Date: 05/28/2024

Format: Other

My Rating: TBR (ARC)


An atmospheric suspense debut that delves into family secrets to ask the question: Who do you believe when you can’t even trust yourself?

“A delicious smoke curl of a novel . . . skilled at twisting the reader’s guesses in unimaginable ways.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult

When Jess was thirteen, her mother went for a walk and never returned. Jess and her older sister, Liz, never found out what happened. Instead, they did what they hoped their mother had done: survive. As soon as she was old enough, Jess fled their small town of Knife River, wandering from girlfriend to girlfriend like a ghost in her own life, aimless in her attempts to outrun grief and confusion. But one morning, fifteen years after their mother’s disappearance, she gets the call she’s been bracing for: Her mother’s remains have been found.

Jess returns to find Knife River—and her sister—frozen in time. The town is as claustrophobic and rundown as ever. Liz still lives in their childhood home and has become obsessed with unsolved missing persons cases. Jess plans to stay only until they get some answers, but their mother’s bones, exposed to the elements for so long, just leave them with more questions. As Jess gets caught up in the case and falls back into an entanglement with her high school girlfriend, her understanding of the past, of Liz, of their mother, and of herself become more complicated—and the list of theories more ominous.

Knife River is a tense, intimate, and heartrending portrayal of how deeply and imperfectly women love one another: in romantic relationships, in friendships, and especially as sisters.


“Knife River is a delicious smoke curl of a novel: atmospheric, sharp, and skilled at twisting the reader’s guesses in unimaginable ways.”

—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Knife River is an intelligent literary mystery with a rich sense of place and a clever plot; but it is Champine’s keenly-observed depiction of the aftermath of tragedy and the corrosive impact of loss that sets this novel apart.”

—Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Beautifully written, gripping and poignant, Knife River is a moving debut about love, women and buried secrets.”

—Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation

“Knife River is a gorgeous, magnetic portrait of two sisters whose lives are shattered by the loss of their mother. Part mystery, part investigation into the nature of loss, this novel is both startlingly beautiful and unputdownable. Justine Champine has written a knockout debut.”

—Danielle Trussoni, New York Times bestselling author of The Puzzle Master

“To say Justine Champine is an original would be a dramatic understatement. With the wry, crackling humor of Sally Rooney and Otessa Moshfegh, and a grip on the darkest, prickliest corners of consciousness, Champine will be read and championed as one of the greats, a Gaitskill of this generation, though completely singular in vision, skill, and the oneiric atmosphere of her stories. I’ve been waiting a decade for Champine’s debut, and I'm thrilled it’s here in Knife River, with all of her magic tricks on display. Champine writes dykes, outsiders, and desire like no one else; her work is a discovery, a marvel, a transcendence.”

—T Kira Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls

“Knife River is a twisty, intoxicating book. The beating heart of it is raw and tender, full of guilt and heartache and hope. It's a genuine and unsettling look at how loss can divide a family, but it’s also a story about the long and difficult ways we finally make our way back home. Justine Champine is a very gifted writer and readers are going to be hooked on Knife River.”

—Kristen Arnett, author of With Teeth

About the Author

Justine Champine’s short fiction has appeared in The Kenyon Review, Epoch, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and is a founding member of No Tokens Journal. Knife River is her first novel.

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