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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Pickard County Atlas

Pickard County Atlas

A Novel

Chris Harding Thornton

MCD

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"An atmospheric, slow-burning beauty of a book, rich with raw-edged lyricism and achingly real characters." Tana French, author of The Searcher

Small-town secrets loom large in this spellbinding debut about the aftershocks of crime and trauma that shake a Nebraskan town.

In a dusty town in Nebraska’s rugged sandhills, weary sheriff’s deputy Harley Jensen patrols the streets at night, on the lookout for something—anything—out of the ordinary. It’s July 1978, and the heat is making people ornery, restless. That and the Reddick family patriarch has decided, decades after authorities ended the search for his murdered boy’s body, to lay a headstone. Instead of bringing closure, this decision is the spark that threatens to set Pickard County ablaze.

On a fateful night after the memorial service, Harley tails the youngest Reddick and town miscreant, Paul, through the abandoned farms and homes outside their run-down town. The pursuit puts Harley in the path of Pam Reddick, a restless young woman looking for escape, bent on cutting the ties of motherhood and marriage. Filled with desperate frustration, Pam is drawn to Harley’s dark history, not unlike that of her husband, Rick—a man raised in the wreckage of a brother’s violent death and a mother’s hardened fury.

Unfolding over six tense days, Pickard County Atlas sets Harley and the Reddicks on a collision course—propelling them toward an incendiary moment that will either redeem or end them. Engrossing, darkly funny, and real, Chri… More…

"An atmospheric, slow-burning beauty of a book, rich with raw-edged lyricism and achingly real characters." Tana French, author of The Searcher

Small-town secrets loom large in this spellbinding debut about the aftershocks of crime and trauma that shake a Nebraskan town.

In a dusty town in Nebraska’s rugged sandhills, weary sheriff’s deputy Harley Jensen patrols the streets at night, on the lookout for something—anything—out of the ordinary. It’s July 1978, and the heat is making people ornery, restless. That and the Reddick family patriarch has decided, decades after authorities ended the search for his murdered boy’s body, to lay a headstone. Instead of bringing closure, this decision is the spark that threatens to set Pickard County ablaze.

On a fateful night after the memorial service, Harley tails the youngest Reddick and town miscreant, Paul, through the abandoned farms and homes outside their run-down town. The pursuit puts Harley in the path of Pam Reddick, a restless young woman looking for escape, bent on cutting the ties of motherhood and marriage. Filled with desperate frustration, Pam is drawn to Harley’s dark history, not unlike that of her husband, Rick—a man raised in the wreckage of a brother’s violent death and a mother’s hardened fury.

Unfolding over six tense days, Pickard County Atlas sets Harley and the Reddicks on a collision course—propelling them toward an incendiary moment that will either redeem or end them. Engrossing, darkly funny, and real, Chris Harding Thornton’s debut rings with authenticity and a nuanced sense of place even as it hums with menace, introducing an astonishing new voice in suspense.

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DEEP IN THE LATE JULY NIGHT, the headlamps of Harley Jensen’s cruiser carved a tunnel of light above Highway 28. They lit the thin tar-and-chip road and the bunchgrass whose shoots ate its crumbling edges. The glare blotted out all...

Praise for Pickard County Atlas

"An atmospheric, slow-burning beauty of a book, rich with raw-edged lyricism and achingly real characters." Tana French, author of The Searcher

"A remarkable achievement. Chris Harding Thornton reveals the soul of a region and a people haunted by the past and with only desperate hopes for the future. On every page is a detail so authentic, or an image so vivid that readers will want to pause in appreciation. An amazing debut from an author who knows her little postage stamp of Nebraska soil as well as Faulkner knew Yoknapatawpha county." —Larry Watson, author of As Good As Gone

"A stylishly dark debut. Chris Harding Thornton has managed to turn hard-bitten, small-town lives into the glimmering stuff of workaday poetry. Pickard County Atlas introduces an assured and striking new voice in American fiction." —Dominic Smith, author of The Electric Hotel

"Pickard County Atlas, by debut author Chris Harding Thornton, is a darkly addictive read that pulls you deep into the web of secrets that lie at the heart of the troubled Reddick family. Thornton has crafted a haunting, dread-soaked tale, as gritty as the sandhills of Nebraska where the story takes place, that will cling to you long after you turn the final page." —Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times–bestselling author of This Is How I Lied

"Pickard County Atlas is a gripping debut fueled by small-town secrets and lies by omission, and characters whose rawness and reticence are fresh and strong … More…

"An atmospheric, slow-burning beauty of a book, rich with raw-edged lyricism and achingly real characters." Tana French, author of The Searcher

"A remarkable achievement. Chris Harding Thornton reveals the soul of a region and a people haunted by the past and with only desperate hopes for the future. On every page is a detail so authentic, or an image so vivid that readers will want to pause in appreciation. An amazing debut from an author who knows her little postage stamp of Nebraska soil as well as Faulkner knew Yoknapatawpha county." —Larry Watson, author of As Good As Gone

"A stylishly dark debut. Chris Harding Thornton has managed to turn hard-bitten, small-town lives into the glimmering stuff of workaday poetry. Pickard County Atlas introduces an assured and striking new voice in American fiction." —Dominic Smith, author of The Electric Hotel

"Pickard County Atlas, by debut author Chris Harding Thornton, is a darkly addictive read that pulls you deep into the web of secrets that lie at the heart of the troubled Reddick family. Thornton has crafted a haunting, dread-soaked tale, as gritty as the sandhills of Nebraska where the story takes place, that will cling to you long after you turn the final page." —Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times–bestselling author of This Is How I Lied

"Pickard County Atlas is a gripping debut fueled by small-town secrets and lies by omission, and characters whose rawness and reticence are fresh and strong enough to crack your teeth and make you fall in love. Chris Harding Thornton is an originalan important new writer whose lyrical phrasing reflects the rural Midwest’s long, harsh horizons and sheltering hills." —Jonis Agee, author of The River Wife

"I devoured this hypnotic novel in one fevered sitting. Set against the magnetic backdrop of Nebraska’s sandhills, Pickard County Atlas is full of dark stories, weaving together the fates of unforgettable characters striving to hold their lives intact. The tension is electric on every page." —Devin Murphy, author of The Boat Runner

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Chris Harding Thornton

Chris Harding Thornton, a seventh-generation Nebraskan, holds an MFA from the University of Washington and a PhD from the University of Nebraska, where she currently teaches. She has worked as a quality assurance overseer at a condom factory, a jar-lid screwer at a plastics plant, a closer at Burger King, a record store clerk, an all-ages club manager, and a PR writer. Pickard County Atlas is her first novel.

image of Chris Harding Thorntono
Dana Damewood