Knuckledown Press announces the publication of “Barn Stripping and Other Stories,” a book by Andrew J. Olson, an MFA graduate from Minnesota State University Moorhead.

In his own quest for William H. Gass’s “heart of the heart of the country,” author Andrew J. Olson takes readers to rural Minnesota, where children are essential parts in the machinery of everyday life. Portals to wonderment, they must learn the hard way about their own bodies and their own fragility, and yet we recognize it’s their souls that are resilient, because even the marginalized exude a certain magic that cannot be ignored. Young men learn that hard work is its own reward, and that promises can be reaped from the land. However, workaday tragedies lie in wait, and Mother Nature is brutish in her lack of sympathy. Fortunately, the sense of duty that comes with living in a small community helps to temper both grief and loss, and in the end, we find that the heart of the heart of the country is a gift that can’t be sought, only found.

What folks are saying about this book:

“In this evocative first collection set mostly on family farms in West Central Minnesota, Andrew J. Olson strips his haunted young men of everything but their pride. In the title story, the venerable rural practice of barn stripping becomes a poignant symbol of mortality. One teenager comes to grips with a father “from another time, suspended in his ways and in his outlook on the world,” while another grows beyond his years after his father is killed in Iraq. Whether losing an engagement ring while planting potatoes, shooting birds, falling from a church balcony, cleaning a beach of dead carp, or making a fateful choice to flee the scene of an accident, these characters live in hardscrabble but resilient emotional territory. This is their survival manual, and Olson writes it with a flair for the telling episode or detail.”

Alan Davis
Author of So Bravely Vegetative, Hollywood Books International, Hollywood, Calif., and two previous books of fiction

“Barn Stripping strips away all literary excess, cuts to the bone, and offers us compact and compelling tales of contemporary rural life. Andrew J. Olson deftly captures boys, men, boys ‘among men,’ and assorted restless souls living in the ‘quiet serenity’ of small towns and big skies. He tackles universal themes of grief and growing up with clear-eyed compassion. These stories are as spare, pristine, and haunting as the windswept landscapes they so vividly evoke.”

Elizabeth Searle
Author of Girl Held in Home, New Rivers Press, Moorhead, Minn., and three previous books of fiction

“These stories are, most often, about young boys seemingly engaged in young boy activities—playing baseball, shooting BB guns, sneaking in for a peek at their grandfather’s bull—yet a deep sense of aloneness underscores them. Set in Minnesota, the stories of Barn Stripping and Other Stories are written with a starkness that matches the often bleak winter landscapes of their settings. Death is matter-of-fact here, yet so is life. Among the best is ‘Split Wood,’ in which a boy dies in the dead of winter, leaving his parents to bury him in a blizzard. Part William Saroyan, part Kent Haruf, Olson writes with tenderness and wisdom about a world he knows well.”

Lori Ostlund
Author of The Bigness of the World, University of Georgia Press, Athens, Ga.

“For those of us who are blessed to live on corn-speckled streets, these stories by Andrew J. Olson ring true. There is also a universality that readers will recognize as Olson tells stories that explore family relationships, innocence, loss, grief, revenge. We read about the death of a child in a farm accident. About a father’s acceptance and encouragement of his son’s imagination. About a young man who realizes that he has lost an engagement ring, still in its velveteen box, in the dirt somewhere on the side of Boot Hill, where he has been planting potatoes to pay for the ring. In this story, Olson writes about the potatoes to be used as seed, ‘Most had only just begun to sprout, the eyes developing a physical gaze that slowly reached outward for what they could not see.’ So it is for the writer as he writes these stories and the readers as we read. We reach into the stories, and they surprise us, move us, encourage us, and help us to see ourselves, each other, and the world more clearly.”

David Bengtson
Author of Broken Lines: Prose Poems, Juniper Press, St. Paul, Minn.

About Andrew J. Olson:
Andrew J. Olson grew up in the small town of Brandon, Minn., in West Central Minnesota. He is an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College in Sterling, Va., near Washington, D.C., where he lives with his wife, Maria. Andrew’s work has been published in 1,000 Words , The Monarch Review, The Linnet’s Wings, Leaf Garden Press, Down in the Dirt Magazine,Weirdyear, Red Weather, The Yellow Bicycle, Read This!, and LoveChild Journal. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University Moorhead in Moorhead, Minn., where he earned his B.A. in English and Mass Communications. He has been a technical writer and has worked at an independent bookstore in Fort Collins, Colo. Andrew is the son of two schoolteachers, Dan and Diane Olson, of Brandon. As a boy, he enjoyed spending time at his grandparents’ farms in Herman and Starbuck.

About Knuckledown Press:
Knuckledown Press is a small Midwestern literary press that publishes literary fiction and creative nonfiction titles in English for worldwide distribution in electronic formats.