Pamela Carter Joern
Pamela Carter Joern's novel about guilt and forgiveness takes
place in the remote Sandhills region of Nebraska. Toby
Jenkins, a 72-year old widow, lives with her embittered sister
Gertie in the ornate Sears mail-order house their father built in
1920. Toby's determined to hang onto her ranch even though
the banker threatens to foreclose and she has no one to leave
the land to since her adoptive daughter, an airline stewardess,
hates the place. Then Toby's 16-year old pregnant
granddaughter, Lila, shows up for the summer. Surly and
disaffected, Lila renews a childhood relationship with Clay,
Gertie's grandson, who's in over his head with farming,
drugs, and his neighbor's wife. Slowly Lila is drawn into the
long-buried secrets of her grandmother's life. Disclosure
could destroy the fragile family bonds, or it could lead to
deeper understanding and renewed compassion.
"Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth
was the floor of the sky." --Willa Cather
"Playwright Joern's characters are as stern as the land, and the world of her debut novel is
sturdy and memorable."
--Publisher's Weekly, June, 2006
"An emotionally rich first novel about an unwed pregnant teen spending her summer with her
grandmother in the hardscrabble Nebraska Sandhills. . . Her visit stirs up long-simmering
tensions for Toby, Toby's bitter sister Gertie and George, who has worked on the ranch for
more than 50 years. Seventy-two and widowed, Toby is no fawning grandma. Tough but loving,
she still rides her horse regularly and can work up a man's passions. . . George's unspoken love
makes for irresistible reading. . .Think Paul Newman with Joanne Woodward. . . A resonant love
story, whatever the age of the lovers."
--Kirkus Reviews, June, 2006
"A testimony to the power of family secrets and the enduring legacy of the land."
--Mary Clearman Blew, author of Balsamroot: A Memoir
"Pamela Carter Joern is a stunningly talented writer, a fearless teller of hard truth. Set in the
Sandhills of Nebraska, The Floor of the Sky is a tale of quiet heroics, a story of tenacity and
courage, an intimate glimpse into the lives of independent ranchers determined to survive. A
powerful portrayal of family, land, and loyalty. We are the wiser for having read it."
--Sheila O'Connor, author of Where No Gods Came, winner of the 2004 Minnesota Book
Award; Tokens of Grace
"[Joern's] characters are sensible, endearing, and deeply haunted, and there's enough story and
intrigue for ten novels. Secrets, old and new, keep the past constantly bumping into the present,
making for a mesmerizing family saga."
--Timothy Schaffert, author of The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God
"Pamela Carter Joern writes with compassion and a wry sense of humor, in a direct and true
style that takes in the vivid details of the Nebraska Sandhills and the complexities and nuances of
her characters' inner lives, while never losing sight of the central story at hand. Her work may
bring to mind the novels of Kent Haruf and Larry McMurty—though, like the fiercely
independent women that populate her novel, Joern is clearly an original!"
--Dan Chaon, author of You Remind Me of Me; Among the Missing, a National Book Award
"First novelist Joern is particularly skillful at depicting contemporary small-town life and the
issues rural communities face: the difficulty small farmers and ranchers have staying afloat
financially and the decision of younger generations either to leave for urban areas or to endure
directionless lives. . .Essential for rural and regional public libraries."
--Library Journal, August, 2006
"Joern intricately weaves together a compelling family saga and a beautifully rendered paean to
the land her characters love and are struggling to preserve. . . .Surrounding the intertwined
details of this family's loves, jealousies, and regrets like a cocoon is their emotional bond with the
land itself—the land they're in danger of losing to a ranching conglomerate. Joern's lyrical and
painterly descriptions of the vast Sandhills are the perfect backdrop for this subtle drama."
--Booklist, August 2006
"The Floor of the Sky by Pamela Carter Joern takes place in the remote Sandhills region of
Nebraska. This story of a strong, rural, connected family brought me to tears. I'm the same age
as the grandmother, 72, and I want to believe I have similar strengths."
--Glenda Martin, Minnesota Women's Press, August 18, 2006
|Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
Holiday 2006 Selection
"As I experience your writing, Pam, and The Floor of the Sky in particular, I am compelled to
say that one of your particular gifts is to bring the whole religious/spiritual/theological enterprise
down to earth. You seem to infuse this world, the natural world, with a sense of the sacred so
that Nebraska land becomes a holy place and we see the characters acting out theological
dramas—judgment, redemption, resurrection, heaven and hell right here on earth. The dramas
that were once thought to take place on another plane of reality, a spiritual plane away from the
world, are for you “here and now.” There are many, many passages that illustrate this gift of
yours, but there’s one section I especially like because of its subtlety. George Bates, the hired
man, and not what you’d call a “religious guy” in an obvious sense, is gazing at the night sky and
looking at the constellation Orion."
--Mary Bednarowski, retired Professor of Religious Studies, United Theological Seminary, from
an interview with Pam on October 8, 2006
"Pamela Carter Joern's prose is graceful, as spacious as the land she describes: "The western
sky is a box of crayons, painful in its beauty, while the hills on either side of the draw shadow
them like hovering angels." With well-chosen words she describes the dying of a small town, as
corporate agribusiness and superstores choke the life out of rural America. She writes about
compassion and courage, and the need to forgive and to accept forgiveness; above all, she
writes about love for land and family."
--Marilyn Dahl, Self Awareness, September 26, 2006
2007 Alex Award. One of ten books selected annually by The Young Adult Library Services
Association (part of the American Library Association) which were written for adults that also
have teen appeal.
“The Floor of the Sky honors the pleasures and pitfalls of family without a shred of
sentimentality. Like life, the story has unexpected twists. Just when you think you know what’s
coming, something else entirely happens, making perfect sense in retrospect.”
--Pamela Miller, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, March 30, 2007
“The Floor of the Sky never divulges its secrets too soon or too obviously, and Carter Joern is
masterful at showing-not-telling, that traditional writer’s mantra. Clues and hints about Bolden
family truths are dropped like feathers, and when we find out what we suspected we knew. . .it
still feels like a surprise. Not all is revealed, either. Some secrets are taken to the grave, some
grudges not only kept but honed, and it’s all presented in a prose that is at once earthy and light.”
--Jean Sramek, mnartists.org
2007 Nebraska Book Award fiction category winner. The Nebraska Book Awards program,
sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book, recognizes and honors books that are written
by Nebraska authors, published by Nebraska publishers, set in Nebraska or concerning
“Not only do you have the story of a young girl facing the choice of whether to raise her unborn
baby or give it up for adoption, but you also have the dynamics of family relationships and how
people deal with past hurts, romances, prejudices, and faith. The writing is beautiful and the
novel would appeal to many because of its regional and rural setting.”
--Pamela Broeker, Pamela Broeker’s Book Blog
"Joern’s prose is as clean as her landscape, and she paces the novel well, unraveling one at a
time, the small mysteries that keep the story moving along. She even manages to save one final,
explosive secret—perhaps the biggest—for the novel’s last ten pages. And by the story’s end,
Lila has learned what only the Heartland can teach her—that it’s the love rippling beneath speech
and action that means something.”
--Jill Patterson, Iron Horse Literary Review, Winter, 2006
“The Floor of the Sky is a true gem of the storyteller’s art, written with great compassion, wit
and wisdom about the human condition, family secrets, and the sweeping changes in a
contemporary rural America.”
--Midwest Book Review
|Barnes & Noble Discover Great
New Writers Selection
72-year-old widow, is trying to hang onto a life that appears to be ending.
Her world -- once populated by larger-than-life individuals -- now includes
her cranky sister, her ailing brother, and a weathered old hired hand. Her
only child left the homestead long ago and rarely calls. Moreover, Toby's
ranch is in danger of foreclosure, and her one wish is to die before she
loses it for good.
Then a newcomer joins this motley crew. Lila, Toby's pregnant teenage
granddaughter, arrives for a stay, complete with spiked hair and a glittering
stud in her nose. "Mom sent me here because she can't stand to look at
me," Lila explains, and Toby replies, "Well. Maybe so." Yet the impending
arrival of this baby may be just what these senior citizens need to come to
terms with their own lives -- and with their future.
Joern borrowed her title from a line in a Willa Cather novel, and it's hard to
imagine a more appropriate one. This down-to-earth tale takes on disparate
elements, from cattle branding to punk fashions and Alzheimer's disease,
and the result is a moving and passionately told work of fiction, as vast and
American as its setting." --Holiday 2006 Selection