My debut novel is out now (September 2023) from University of Wisconsin Press!
GET IT HERE: University of Wisconsin Press, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Bookshop.org (I’d prefer you ordered from UWP directly or your favorite local indie, like Milwaukee’s Boswell Books or Madison’s A Room of One’s Own!).
1917, Wisconsin. A decade after lumbering has devastated the forests of the upper Midwest, an idealistic young forester named Rand Brandt discovers he has a magic power: his touch can grow any plant in minutes. Overjoyed, he dreams of devoting his life to conservation. When Rand confides in his new lover Gabriel, he begs Rand to regrow his family’s drought-scourged farm. Rand can’t refuse. When the US Forest Service drafts Rand to grow timber for the war, he can’t refuse either—though Gabriel’s been drafted too, and the army is a dangerous place for men in love.
Then a week before boot camp, Rand realizes everything he grows dies within days. Horrified, he scrambles to learn how to control his power, throwing himself into self-destructive trials, raising trees until he blacks out. Determined to keep his promises, he conceals his efforts from Gabriel and the Forest Service, even as he’s deployed to France to begin growing pine.
But as the war intensifies, Rand’s efforts grow too desperate to hide. Worse yet, Europe’s forests, unnatural but beautiful, start to shake his faith in the one thing he thought he understood: wilderness itself. As Rand’s lies shatter around him, he must confront the terrifying possibility that he might never master his power—a prospect that upends everything he believes about nature, love, and himself.
PRAISE FOR DRY LAND:
“A winning combination of history, magic, and science.” —Kirkus
“B. Pladek’s Dry Land is a quest narrative, seeking forms of renewal for ravaged ecosystems and fraught human relationships. With quiet grace and a fearless gaze toward the entanglement of preservation and destruction, this meditative novel questions both the romance of landscape and the landscape of romance.”
—Sofia Samatar, author of The White Mosque and A Stranger in Olondria
“A gorgeously imagined, deeply personal story of love and war, of the places we make and the places that make us. But most movingly, Pladek has written an ode to the ordinary magic of our extraordinary world.”
—Karen Joy Fowler, author of Booth
“Rand is not interested in becoming the war hero everyone wants him to be, but he’s beguiled by the idea of becoming a savior of nature. These glorious but unreal fantasies come into conflict in the midst of Pladek’s lush, evocative descriptions of Wisconsin plant life. As a meditation on our place in the wilderness and our capacity for hubris, Dry Land feels especially relevant.”
—Charlie Jane Anders, The Washington Post
“This is a thinky, reflective novel, with plenty of interiority and an avoidance of common fantasy plot beats… For all his magic, Rand isn’t a hero and the plot isn’t an extended training montage. It is something much, much closer to life, with all its pain and sense of wonder. It reflects on genre publishing—and not favorably—that this book came out from a university press, and for this reason it might be less noticed. I for one will continue telling people about it, and at the risk of employing the cliché: this is one of the not-to-miss speculative novels of 2023.”
–Bogi Takács, Reckoning Magazine
“The whole book stunned me. I wept, I got lost, I felt renewed. Prickly and beautiful queer nature magic, all the way down.”
—Laura Sackton, writer at Book Riot, BookPage, and AudioFile
In Dry Land, Pladek effortlessly marries magical realism with historical fiction, resulting in a wise and tender debut. Introspective, candid, somehow still daring to be hopeful, this novel would be an excellent addition to your bookshelf. This story is for the romantic, the ecologist, the historian, the artist—really, for everyone.
–Genevieve Hartman, Independent Book Review
“In precise, elegant prose, B. Pladek has given us a story set over a hundred years ago but with startling resonance for today. Dry Land is a deeply original novel that deserves attention. I can’t remember reading anything quite like it.”
—Ken Harvey, author of The Book of Casey Adair