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May 3, 2022

“The Barrens” book by Kurt Johnson and Ellie Johnson is released

The book is finally here! 

Here is how it’s described online or in the trailer as it were…

This riveting debut is at once a white-water adventure, coming-of-age novel, and tale of tragic love—and an extraordinary father-daughter collaboration. “The Barrens grabbed me from the opening pages and never let go.”—Michael Punke, author of The Revenant

Two young women attending college decide to have a summer adventure canoeing the rapids-strewn Thelon River that runs 450 miles through the uninhabited Barren Lands of subarctic Canada. Holly made the trip once before with a group of skilled paddlers she trained with at camp, and she wants to share that experience with her friend and lover, Lee, believing it will draw them closer. But a week in, Holly, the risk-taker, falls while taking a selfie near the edge of a cliff. She is left injured and comatose, and soon dies. Their locator beacon for summoning rescue was smashed in Holly’s fall. It remains to Lee, the inexperienced paddler, to continue the grueling and dangerous trip alone, to save herself and return her lover’s body to civilization and Holly’s family.

In their relationship, Holly and Lee had always told each other stories; Lee had called Holly a “storyist.” Storytelling helps Lee endure the rigors of her journey and engage her grief as she explores her relationship with Holly while chronicling her own coming-of-age off the grid in Nebraska with her estranged eco-anarchist father, who is now serving time in prison.

I am so proud of my husband Kurt Johnson and my daughter Ellie Johnson who collaborated on “The Barrens” a novel of Love and Death in the Canadian arctic. For as long as I have known Kurt he has wanted to be a writer. When he graduated from college he moved to NYC and wrote every day while living in a crappy third-story walk-up apartment with two friends. To get to his actual bedroom he had to go through another guys room and climb through a window where his mattress was in basically a closet.  

Kurt and Ellie have always had a special father-daughter friendship. When Ellie came back from “on trail “after her Thelon trip she told her dad all the stories and he encouraged her to write them for an English class short story project. When Ellie declined Kurt wrote it anyway and used “Ellie’s eyes and insights” to make you feel like you were on this actual canoe trip though it is fictionalized. 

I am excited for the book to come into the world at last. I suspect its the first of many for Kurt Johnson and I am also excited to see if Ellie writes the sitcom I know she has in her about growing up with her crazy foodie mother 🙂

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