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A Novel

by Karin Anderson


What Falls Away by Karin Anderson is a novel of family, art, and the raw process of healing. Cassandra Soelberg, pregnant at seventeen, was cast out by Mormon patriarchs of her community. Returning to her rural Utah hometown after forty years to care for her senile mother, she meets a young man with an uncanny resemblance to the father of her never-known child. Drawn back into traumatic scenes of young adulthood, she must reconcile with her past in the fiercely beautiful landscapes that shaped her.

August 2023 | Fiction | 9781948814799 | 384 pp | $18.95 


"A powerful novel that will resonate with anyone who has returned to a place they no longer recognize as home."

"Sharp, poetic prose... her story commands attention."

“The red sandstone and gnarled juniper landscapes of southern Utah have shaped unforgettable voices: Terry Tempest Willams. Edward Abbey. Now comes Karin Anderson, who in What Falls Away gives us a narrator named Cassandra, who speaks towards the truths of exiles coming home. Sinewy, muscular, and determined, as hard on herself as she is on those around her, Cassandra brings us a vision of what family and redemption can and should look like, if we get real, as real as the desert demands that we be. Outstanding.”
—JOANNA BROOKS, author of Mormonism and White Supremacy and Book of Mormon Girl

“No contemporary novelist renders the apostates and patriarchy of the American West with more life and depth than Karin Anderson.”

—CHARLIE QUIMBY, author of Inhabited and Monument Road

“Resisting an easy restoration to compensate for losses, Anderson challenges notions of community, belonging, and generational ties to the land, as Cassandra navigates her own place in a town that surprises through both familiar cruelties and moments of refuge for its ‘prodigal’ child.”

—DANIELLE BEAZER BUBRASKY, author of Drift Migration and co-editor of Blossom as the Cliffrose: Mormon Legacies and the Beckoning Wild

“Anderson’s novel is remarkable. It captures the unfathomable complexity of a human ecology embedded in a richly envisioned rural space. She captures how patriarchy, greed, and privileged institutional abuse can create generations of harm. The novel unfolds in gracious sympathy for how complicated and complex navigating matters of faith, betrayal, greed, fundamentalism and family secrets can be. She powerfully depicts how patterns of harm and trauma can reverberate through generations. And how such inheritances can subvert efforts to escape its lifelong existential heft. Exceptional in every way. This novel's literary ambitions are completely fulfilled in what will likely become a classic of Western literature. Don’t miss this treasure.”

—STEVEN L. PECK, author of The Scholar of Moab

“Like her main character, Cassandra, Karin Anderson is a “she-coyote”—a truth-teller and a trickster—who fearlessly enters the rocky terrain of family, religion, and patriarchy, to bear witness to a nightmarish collection of ages-old outrages born by women. If Cassandra is a priestess who learns to draw images of what family, belonging, and healing might be, then Anderson is a visionary who understands the transformational power of story.”

—KAREN AUVINEN, author of Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living


Karin Anderson’s new novel, What Falls Away, could be described as a family saga and I would suggest, in some important ways, it’s every family’s saga. The impulse to lie and dissemble in the service of protecting reputations seems to always do the opposite and who among us can cast the first or any stone anyway? As we get to know Cassandra (our truth teller) and through her the rest of the Soelberg clan, we can see how much more alike we are than different. I loved this story, not just because it’s close to home for me but because I think it’s close to home for so many young women.”

—ANNE HOLMAN, The King’s English Bookshop

“If you go home again, you have to face what you’ve tried to forget. Sometimes Anderson’s language fragments into poetry, revealing both the psychological faults in Cassandra’s being and the sociological faults in the community. Memories, unsettled ghosts, appear again and again like the lines of a villanelle . . . A lesser writer might allow Cassandra’s just and proper anger to swallow her whole, but Anderson balances the potential for violence with the potential for healing. The resulting tension kept this reader engaged to the surprising end.”

—JOHN BENNION, author of Ezekiel’s Third Wife: A Novel



“Cinematic in places, Anderson’s writing about place is so precise as to feel like a stunning documentary. Inventive and richly detailed, Cassandra’s story is populated with generations of distinct and surprising characters and culminates in an unforgettable ending. As someone with a deep but complicated affinity for Utah Valley who has felt the ache for home as well as the relief to leave, I felt as if this book was written for me. It’s as strong as any writing about the region since Virginia Sorensen, updated to include new generations, sprawl and climate change. This book swallowed me whole. I expect to re-read it many times.”

—MICHAEL WILLIAM PALMER, author of Baptizing the Dead and Other Jobs



KARIN ANDERSON is a gardener, writer, mother, wanderer, and heretic, as well as the author of Before Us Like a Land of Dreams. Her work has appeared in Dialogue, Quarter After Eight, Western Humanities Review, Sunstone, Saranac Review, American Literary Review, and Fiddleback. A former professor of English at Utah Valley University, she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and holds degrees from Utah State University, Brigham Young University, and the University of Utah. She hails from the Great Basin.

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