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The Flicker of Old Dreams: A Novel
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HarperCollins 2018
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The dead come to me vulnerable, sharing their stories and secrets. . . .

Mary Crampton has spent all of her thirty years in Petroleum, a small western town once supported by its grain industry. Living at home, she works as the embalmer in her father’s mortuary: an unlikely job that has long marked her as an outsider. Yet, to Mary, there is a satisfying art to positioning and styling each body to capture the essence of a subject’s life.

Though some townsfolk pretend that the community is thriving, the truth is that Petroleum is crumbling away—a process that began twenty years ago when an accident in the grain elevator killed a beloved high school athlete. The granary closed for good, the train no longer stopped in town, and Robert Golden, the victim’s younger brother, was widely blamed for the tragedy and shipped off to live elsewhere. Now, out of the blue, Robert has returned to care for his terminally ill mother. After Mary—reserved, introspective, and deeply lonely—strikes up an unlikely friendship with him, shocking the locals, she finally begins to consider what might happen if she dared to leave Petroleum.

Set in America’s Great Plains, The Flicker of Old Dreams explores themes of resilience, redemption, and loyalty in prose as lyrical as it is powerful.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
03/13/2018
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780062686718
ASIN:
B0716GZY8N

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Citations

APA Citation (style guide)

Susan Henderson. (2018). The Flicker of Old Dreams: A Novel. HarperCollins.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Susan Henderson. 2018. The Flicker of Old Dreams: A Novel. HarperCollins.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Susan Henderson, The Flicker of Old Dreams: A Novel. HarperCollins, 2018.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Susan Henderson. The Flicker of Old Dreams: A Novel. HarperCollins, 2018.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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Date Added:
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Date Updated:
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        Susan Henderson is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. She is the author of two novels, The Flicker of Old Dreams and Up from the Blue, both published by HarperCollins. Susan lives in Kings Park, New York and blogs at the writer support group, LitPark.com.

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title
The Flicker of Old Dreams
fullDescription

The dead come to me vulnerable, sharing their stories and secrets. . . .

Mary Crampton has spent all of her thirty years in Petroleum, a small western town once supported by its grain industry. Living at home, she works as the embalmer in her father’s mortuary: an unlikely job that has long marked her as an outsider. Yet, to Mary, there is a satisfying art to positioning and styling each body to capture the essence of a subject’s life.

Though some townsfolk pretend that the community is thriving, the truth is that Petroleum is crumbling away—a process that began twenty years ago when an accident in the grain elevator killed a beloved high school athlete. The granary closed for good, the train no longer stopped in town, and Robert Golden, the victim’s younger brother, was widely blamed for the tragedy and shipped off to live elsewhere. Now, out of the blue, Robert has returned to care for his terminally ill mother. After Mary—reserved, introspective, and deeply lonely—strikes up an unlikely friendship with him, shocking the locals, she finally begins to consider what might happen if she dared to leave Petroleum.

Set in America’s Great Plains, The Flicker of Old Dreams explores themes of resilience, redemption, and loyalty in prose as lyrical as it is powerful.

reviews
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      • source: Ron Carlson, author of Five Skies
      • content:

        "Susan Henderson offers us the wondrous, sharp picture of the small town of Petroleum, Montana where the past comes back on two feet and a blizzard rages. The Flicker of Old Dreams is a fine novel, heartfelt and bracing company. It is a gem." — Ron Carlson, author of Five Skies

        "Susan Henderson's The Flicker of Old Dreams is a clear-eyed, wise, and poignant tale of losses and gains, told with tremendous empathy and grace." — Therese Anne Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

        "The Flicker of Old Dreams is at once a vivid and wildly compelling study of small town American life and an intimate and incisive exploration of the human condition, from love to loss and beyond." — Jonathan Evison, the New York Times

        "Susan Henderson has secured her position as one of my favorite novelists. You won't be able to turn away from this tender, elegiac and haunting novel that beautifully exposes the human heart, the human body, and the human condition." — Jessica Anya Blau, author of the nationally bestselling novel The Summer of Naked Swim Parties

        "This novel is so breathtakingly good, so exquisitely written. About a female mortician, about a childhood tragedy that still haunts a damaged young man, about the endless landscape and about those tiny sparks of possibility. Oh my God. Trust me. This book. This book. This Book." — Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Cruel Beautiful World

        "A truly magnificent work of art. The soul energy that is pushing through this story is unstoppable, beautiful, vulnerable, powerful." — Jessica Keener, author of Night Swim and Strangers in Budapest

        "Like the wind scours paint from an old grain silo, Susan Henderson's writing scours away all the pretend niceness of small town life in Montana to reveal the frayed and patched nature of humanity." — Helen Simonson, New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Before the War

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        January 15, 2018
        Henderson’s grim and meaty second novel (after Up from the Blue) tackles the subject of death in an all-consuming way. The fictional town in which the story is set, Petroleum, Mont., population 182, has been dying for over two decades, since an accident in a grain elevator took the life of a local high schooler and shut down the town’s main source of employment. The protagonist is the mortician’s daughter, Mary, who embalms bodies in the basement of her father’s house. She is a shy misfit whose dreams of becoming an artist have long since been extinguished, though she remains awed by the majesty of the barren landscape into which she was born. The townspeople resent that their town is dead, and none are content, although Henderson allows readers an occasional glimpse of stolen laughs and stolen love. When the dead teen’s brother, Robert, returns to keep his mother company in her dying days, the community’s old resentments resurface. Meanwhile, in Robert, Mary finds a soul mate and a fellow oddball who does not conform to the expectations of parents or townspeople. Henderson gives a glimmer of hope for the future at the end of this meditation on death, grief, and emotional freedom, resulting in a contemplative and memorable novel.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        February 1, 2018
        Petroleum, Montana, is a town easily missed, a place without fast-food chains or cell service, where people know the true meaning of hard work. Rocked by tragedy decades earlier, Petroleum never recovered. Neighbors hold tight to resentment, and the population dwindles away. In her second novel, Henderson (Up from the Blue, 2010) brings this dying community to life, detailing the lives of eccentric residents surrounded by a harsh yet beautiful environment. The novel's main character, Mary, is an introvert who works as an embalmer in her father's mortuary. Unable to connect with the living, Mary finds comfort in her unusual career and channels herself into the care of the deceased until a neighbor suddenly returns and changes everything. Mary sees the town in a new light, witnessing the same cruel intolerance she's been trying to escape for years. Henderson's latest tackles the difficult moments of life and death, weighing security against doubt, loyalty versus selfishness, and what it costs to give up everything to find one's true self.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        November 1, 2017

        Mary Crampton has spent her entire life in Petroleum, a fading heartlands town, but still gets treated gingerly by townsfolk because she works as an embalmer in her father's mortuary. Then she becomes involved with outcast Robert, who's returned to tend to his dying mother, and wonders if maybe there's a life beyond. From a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee; a 30,000-copy first printing.

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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The dead come to me vulnerable, sharing their stories and secrets. . . .

Mary Crampton has spent all of her thirty years in Petroleum, a small western town once supported by its grain industry. Living at home, she works as the embalmer in her father’s mortuary: an unlikely job that has long marked her as an outsider. Yet, to Mary, there is a satisfying art to positioning and styling each body to capture the essence of a subject’s life.

Though some townsfolk pretend that the community is thriving, the truth is that Petroleum is crumbling away—a process that began twenty years ago when an accident in the grain elevator killed a beloved high school athlete. The granary closed for good, the train no longer stopped in town, and Robert Golden, the victim’s younger brother, was widely blamed for the tragedy and shipped off to live elsewhere. Now, out of the blue, Robert has returned to care for his terminally ill mother. After...

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