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“Anne Panning’s captivating new novel showcases an agile and unflinching clarity about adolescence, girlhood, and growing up in small-town America. Set against the creeping fractures in our culture during the 1970s, Butter paints a brilliant portrait of a marriage, a family, and a way of life in eclipse.”—Laura Moriarty
“Anne Panning is one of the most underrated writers in America. Butter, with its irresistible young narrator, confirms her gift for making storytelling look easy. The book reminds me in many ways of Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club, Tony Earley’s Jim the Boy, and Jeannette Wall’s The Glass Castle. Quickly engrossing and full in its emotive texture, this expertly-crafted novel is disarming, innovative, and unforgettable.”—Nancy Zafris
Anne Panning’s fiction has been described as warm and original by Publishers Weekly, intelligent and humorous by the Boston Globe, graceful and wry by Booklist, and infectious and enchanting by the New York Times. In fact, Panning’s last collection of short stories, Super America, was a New York Times Book Review> Editor’s Choice. Enter this new novel, the best work yet from a writer whose astute observations of American life are as honest as they are engaging.
Butter is a coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of smalltown Minnesota during the 1970s and told from the perspective of an eleven-year-old girl, Iris, who learns from her parents that she is adopted. The story of Iris’s childhood is at first beguiling and innocent: hers is a world filled with bell-bottoms and Barbie dolls, Shrinky Dinks and Shaun Cassidy records, TV dinners and trips to grandma’s. But as her parents’ marriage starts to unravel, Iris grows more and more observant of disintegration all around her, and the simple cadences of her story quickly attain an unnerving tension as she wavers precariously between girlhood and adolescence. In the end, Iris’s story represents a profound meditation on growing up estranged in small-town America—on being an outsider in a world increasingly averse to them.
Passionate, lyrical, and disquieting, this intensely moving novel is a rich exploration of a crucial theme in American literature that will confirm Anne Panning’s place as a major figure in the world of contemporary fiction.
Anne Panning is professor of English at the College at Brockport, State University of New York. She is the author of two critically acclaimed short story collections, The Price of Eggs and Super America.
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