Nebraska Center for Writers

Chimney What the Critics Say
About Pamela Carter Joern


The Floor of the Sky
Copyright © 2006
by Pamela Carter Joern
U of Nebraska P
How to Buy

In the Nebraska Sandhills, nothing is more sacred than the bond of family and land — and nothing is more capable of causing deep wounds. In Pamela Carter Joern's riveting novel The Floor of the Sky, Toby Jenkins, an aging widow, is on the verge of losing her family's ranch when her granddaughter Lila — a city girl, sixteen and pregnant — shows up for the summer. While facing painful decisions about her future, Lila uncovers festering secrets about her grandmother's past — discoveries that spur Toby to reconsider the ambiguous ties she holds to her embittered sister Gertie, her loyal ranch hand George, her not-so-sympathetic daughter Nola Jean, and ultimately, herself.
Propelled by stark realism in breakneck prose, The Floor of the Sky reveals the inner worlds of characters isolated by geography and habit. Set against the sweeping changes in rural America — from the onslaught of corporate agribusiness to the pressures exerted by superstores on small towns — Joern's compelling story bears witness to the fortitude and hard-won wisdom of people whose lives have been forged by devotion to the land. — from the publisher

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 writes with compassion and a wry sense of humor, in a direct and true style that takes in the vivid details of the world of the Nebraska Sandhills and the complexities and nuances of her characters' inner lives. Her work may bring to mind the novels of Kent Haruf and Larry McMurtry — though, like the fiercely independent women that populate her novel, Joern is clearly an original! — Dan Chaon, author of You Remind Me of Me

[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

[Joern] is 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 and Tokens of Grace

Playwright Joern's characters are as stern as the land, and the world of her debut novel is sturdy and memorable. — Publishers Weekly

[An] emotionally rich first novel about an unwed pregnant teen spending the summer with her grandmother in the hardscrabble Nebraska Sandhills. ... [H]er visit stirs up long-simmering tensions for Toby, Toby's bitter sister Gertie and George, who has worked on the farm for more than 50 years. Seventy-two and long 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. ... [T]hink Paul Newman with Joanne Woodward. ... A resonant love story, whatever the age of the lovers. — Kirkus Reviews

First novelist Joern is particularly skilled 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. She packs a lot of story into 250 pages. ... Essential for rural and regional public libraries. — Library Journal

Joern intricately weaves together a compelling family saga and a beautifully rendered paean to the land her characters love and are struggling to preserve. ... Joern's lyrical and painterly descriptions of the vast Sandhills are the perfect backdrop for this subtle drama. — Booklist

redball.gif Bibliography
redball.gif Selection
redball.gif Buy a Bookstyle=border:none
redball.gif Pamela Carter Joern's Page
redball.gif Author Website
redball.gif Writers On-Line

The Rock

Nebraska Center for Writers