REVIEWS, BUZZ, AND READINGS!

Review of Bend in Lambda Literary Review written by Rachel Wexelbaum September 21, 2017

Coming out stories remain a popular genre among the LGBTQ community. We have strong memories about our individual experiences, complete with family and community conflict arising from our emerging queerness. Not only that, but the coming out experience of folks from conservative religious rural communities seems to transcend generational differences. These reasons, along with what I will share in this review, will make the new lesbian novel Bend a classic.

Author Nancy Hedin wrote Bend as a semi-autobiographical novel. The small town of Bend is based on her hometown of Swanville, Minnesota. For those unfamiliar with Swanville, it is a farming town of 350 people, almost 50 miles away from St. Cloud, the largest population center in central Minnesota. Imagine growing up in that environment with no cable television, no Internet access, and no cell phone or smart phone. Such was life for Hedin, as well as Lorraine, the heroine and narrator of her novel. Tomboy Lorraine loves animals and girls—both of which pose lots of problems for her. She has no idea why her parents will not allow her to work full time with “Twitch,” the town vet, and she also has no idea why she kissed Pastor Grind’s daughter Jolene. The story begins on a summer day, with Lorraine in fear for her future as her prim, proper twin sister Becky warns her that Pastor Grind is on his way over to talk to their parents. “It has to be about you, Lorraine,” Becky taunts her. To make matters worse, both sisters are competing for the prestigious McGruber scholarship, based on academic excellence and the upholding of high moral standards. Pastor Grind’s visit is the first of many “wake up moments” for Lorraine over the course of this story. As she comes to terms with her lesbian identity and her family learns to accept it, Lorraine uncovers multiple family secrets. In the process, her love for her family grows, and she questions whether she should stay in Bend or go off to college in far-off urban St. Paul.


In this small world of Bend, unconnected to the outside world, Lorraine thinks she is the only lesbian in town until she encounters a strange young woman in the library. I will say nothing more about the romantic relationship that develops between the two young women over the course of the novel, where Hedin includes some of the best written scenes of lesbian erotic intimacy that I have ever read—it is an art to write arousing sex scenes that are still appropriate for a novel that could be shelved in the young adult section—but I will give a shout out to libraries right here. It is the library in this small town, and the librarian, who provide an initial safe space for Lorraine to consider her future after high school, to apply for college, and to meet another lesbian close to her age with whom she could talk about her experience. For so many LGBT youth to this day, it is the public library that provides those initial support resources. Lorraine, being a reader and an active student, knows the library well. Lorraine’s father also sends her to the library quite often, as he leaves her notes about different animals which she must research in order to help her navigate the multiple challenges that she faces as the family deals with prim, proper Becky’s spiral of problems, as Lorraine struggles with maintaining her relationship with Chastity, and as bigger family secrets rear their ugly head. Hedin ends the novel on a bittersweet note, but the lesbian storyline ends in sweetness.


Unlike many LGBTQ writers who leave their small towns for new horizons, Hedin loves the land on which she was born and raised. She has passed on this love of small town Minnesota to Lorraine, whose love for the country is combined with the strong love she has for her family. Readers will empathize with Lorraine’s family and neighbors, and may even question their biases toward people from religious conservative communities. Fortunately for Lorraine, no one kicked her out, threatened to deprogram her, or completely shun her from the community, which remains the reality for a significant percentage of LGBTQ youth. Hedin herself only came out at age 25, after her time in Bible college. During a reading of her book in St. Cloud, Hedin confessed that her time in Bible college would have killed her if not for her strong belief at the time that God loved her and had a plan for her, which she confirmed through daily reading of a Bible passage which stated such. Today, Hedin affirms that she has lived a good, full life. She has been married to her partner for nearly 30 years, had children, and has had multiple jobs before becoming a full time mental health counselor and writer. Read Bend carefully, for it provides a formula for what a queer kid needs to build resilience and adapt to new experiences and environments. Bend
By Nancy J. Hedin
Riptide Publishing
Paperback, 9781626495517, 242 pp.
May 2017

Mary Ann Grossmann of the St. Paul Pioneer Press wrote:

Two Minnesota writers celebrate publication of their novels this week. Kristi Belcamino’s “City of Angels,” set in Los Angeles, is aimed at young adults, and although “Bend” isn’t labeled YA, its humor and sensitive handling of a teen lesbian’s small-town life would certainly appeal to that age group.“Bend” by Nancy J. Hedin (Anglerfish Press, $17.99): In this funny/touching debut novel, Lorraine and Becky Tyler are twins and the smartest students in their high school class in Bend, Minn. Both sisters want the coveted college scholarship given by the town’s pastor, but Lorraine knows she isn’t going to win when she’s called into the pastor’s office to be accused of kissing the man’s daughter on the cheek. (Which she did.)When I opened my eyes, Jolene was staring at me like I had two heads and both of them were butt-ugly.“What are you doing?” Jolene’s eyes widened and her face flushed. “Holy sodom and gommorah, Lorraine! You want to put us both on the fast train to hell too?”Becky wins the scholarship but forfeits it when she gets pregnant, marries her boyfriend and has a baby boy the family calls Little Man. Lorraine loves and cares for her nephew, but she’s also falling in love with Charity, an older woman who’s new in town, seems to want a relationship with Lorraine,  then leaves with her former lover (although she returns). Lorraine, who loves animals, is being trained as a veterinarian by her dad’s longtime friend, Twitch.Then Becky goes missing, leaving her husband and baby. Kenny, her husband, admits she’s been acting strangely and a worried Lorraine sets out to find her. When she does, the family has to confront some serious issues and tragedy.


Hedin smoothly integrates mental health issues, religion and Lorraine’s feelings for Charity, leavened with humor. Lorraine’s mother, for instance, is hard on her girls, for whom she only wants the best. She writes down everything she needs to remember in a little book attached to a tiny pencil. And the descriptions of her lousy driving are hilarious. Her dad is a sweetheart, softening his wife’s judgments, and Twitch is a kindly mentor who teaches Lorraine how to castrate animals, help a cow give birth and keep chickens healthy.Although this is not a mystery, there’s a surprising — and satisfying — twist at the end. Hedin clearly loves her characters and there is only one bad guy in a character’s past. This is a loving family doing the best they can.Hedin worked at the Ramsey County Mental Health Crisis Program while she earned her MFA degree from Hamline University, where she was taught and inspired by an amazing group of writers, including Barrie Jean Borich, Mary Rockcastle, Deborah Keenan, Mary Logue, Sheila O’Connor and Patrica Weaver Francisco.The author will read at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 25, at Common Good Books, 38 S. Snelling Ave., St. Paul.

Author, Ellen Hart wrote:

 "Bend is wonderfully rich. Hedin's voice is pitch perfect. You won't be disappointed."


Ellen Hart is the author of over thirty crime novels in two different series. She is a six-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery, a three-time winner of the Minnesota Book Award for Best Popular Fiction, a three-time winner of the Golden Crown Literary Award in several categories, a recipient of the Alice B Medal, and was made an official GLBT Literary Saint at the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans in 2005. In 2010, Ellen received the GCLS Trailblazer Award for lifetime achievement in the field of lesbian literature. In 2016, she was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. The award "represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality."For many years, Ellen has taught "An Introduction to Writing the Modern Mystery" through the The Loft Literary Center, the largest independent writing community in the nation. Ellen's latest Sophie Greenway mystery is No Reservations Required (Ballantine). Fever in the Dark, the twenty-fourth Jane Lawless mystery, was published by St. Martin's/Minotaur in 2017. Bywater Books hsa been releasing Ellen's latest titles in paperback, starting in October 2013 with The Mirror and the Mask and The Cruel Ever After. Also, Audible.com has been releasing all of the Jane Lawless mysteries as audiobooks. Ellen recently married her partner of thirty-seven years, Kathleen Kruger. They live in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
(information pasted from Ellen's website www.ellenhart dot com

Author, actress and humorist, Mary Hirsch wrote,

5.0 out of 5 starsA Wonderful Book; Don't Miss It.

BySwell Gal Maryon May 28, 2017

Format: Paperback

Bend is a book you pick-up, read the first page, and you are hooked. Nancy Hedin is a wordsmith of the highest caliber. Her metaphors are fresh and original. For someone who grew up in the big city reading books about growing up in rural cities makes me both thankful for the opportunities that I had and yet sad for the innocence and joy that I may have missed.

It is well-crafted (as a fellow writer I appreciate this) and engaging. But the two words I would use to describe it are FRESH and SASSY.

In addition, if you get a chance to hear Nancy read from her book don't miss it -- she brings it to life.

Promte current deals.

In celebration of Pride Month Riptide Publishing is offering half off select lesbian fiction. See the deals at Riptidepublishing.com.

Upcoming readings:

Book Fest at Barnes and Noble in St. Cloud September 23rd. I will be hand selling my book from 2-3pm and teaching a creative writing class at 5pm.


Reading at Magers and Quinn Bookstore in Mpls on Thursday, September 28th at 7pm.


Reading at Quatrefoil Library in Mpsl on Saturday, October 7th at 1pm.


On panel for fundraiser for Reclaim at Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Roseville on October 10, 2017.


Deb's Book Club on Saturday, October 28, 2017


Visiting GSA group at Johnson High School Wednesday, November 1st at 3pm.


Amy, Jamie, and Sally's book club on Saturday, November 18th at 7pm.


Signing table at Common Good Books Saturday, November 25th from 1-3pm.

Painter and poet, Susan Solomon wrote:   Bend is the reason people write fiction. Sometimes writers create characters so lifelike, they breathe on the page. Bend is a book to thoroughly enjoy while, in the process, see believably through the eyes of another. Lorraine Tyler is a queer high school senior in the tiny town of Bend, Minnesota. This protagonist, this book, is for anyone who has ever felt alone or outcast. But Bend is much more than that; it is a book I could not wait to read at night before bed. I did not want to finish it because I knew I would go into a reader’s depression without it, having become so attached to the characters and their circumstances. And, in addition, this is a novel that knows how to wrap up its tale, not just successfully, but brilliantly. I very much look forward to a sequel from Nancy Hedin.  

See Susan's work at susansolomonpainter.com

Author Alison McGhee wrote,   "Lorraine Tyler, the star of Bend, is a character you won't soon forget. Her struggle to figure out who she is and how she fits--and doesn't fit--into her  rural Minnesota town will strike a chord with readers of all ages. Lorraine manages to chart her own way through her sister's tragic illness, her parents' complicated relationship, the travails of her fundamentalist church and the wonderment and heartbreak of first love in this fierce, funny and tender coming-of-age novel."  

See Alison's work at alisonmcghee.com

Reader review of Bend     Love in its many forms can run deep yet be fragile for a family trying to scratch out a living in the small town of Bend, Minnesota.   Seventeen-year-old Lorraine Tyler hopes to escape by winning a scholarship and going off to college to become a veterinarian. She is smart enough but faces a major challenge—especially after taking the risk of kissing the preacher’s daughter.   Author Nancy Hedin uses humor, foul language and clever word pictures as she lets family skeletons come tumbling out of the Tyler family closet. She deals openly and starkly with the subject of homosexuality—even letting Lorraine spout the q-word frequently while her strong-willed, God-fearing mother calls it an illness.   I especially loved the word pictures that Hedin sprinkles throughout the story.  Example: “Momma huffed and puffed as she trudged to the barn. Her big hips moved under her church dress like a gunnysack of fighting cats.” Or this one: “Grandma’s mind was a worn transmission. It slipped and stalled between present and past like she was trying to rock a car out of a rut in the snow.”    Each of Hedin’s characters seems  lovable despite their flaws. When Lorraine’s twin sister disappears, the story takes a series of twists that  left me thoroughly engrossed and wanting to race ahead for the answers. Not least among the questions: Will Lorraine find acceptance to kiss the preacher’s OTHER daughter, the one she truly loves?    Bend  leaves  me  anxious to see more from this author.   Russell Tall  

Booklist Online Exclusive: March 3, 2017.

Bend. Hedin, Nancy J. (Author) May 2017. 242 p. Riptide/Anglerfish, paperback, $17.99. (9781626495517). Only one thing stands between 17-year-old Lorraine Tyler and the college-scholarship money that will take her out of her rural town: her twin sister, Becky. Becky plays the good Christian girl to Lorraine’s queer atheist, but both girls’ futures are derailed when Becky gets pregnant and drops out and someone tells the conservative scholarship donor about Lorraine’s proclivities. Lorraine continues to work toward her dream of becoming a veterinarian while juggling questions about her paternity, her intolerant mother (who thinks Lorraine’s sexuality is a “deformity”), and a forbidden romance with the pastor’s older daughter. When Becky disappears and leaves her husband and young child behind, Lorraine and her parents must find compassion and forgiveness in the face of tragedy. This is a coming-of-age story suitable for a wide audience. — Anna Mickelsen

reader reviews

Ian's review March 11, 2017

      

 As a young gay woman living in a deeply conservative and religious community, Lorraine's main goal in life is to graduate from school and go to college. And the further from Bend, Minnesota the better. Then Charity arrives in town. She's the daughter of Bend's most conservative preacher and like Lorraine, gay.  

But along with Charity comes family upheaval. A long hidden secret and a family crisis threaten to destroy more than just Lorraine's dreams of college.   

I love this book. It's whimsical, innocent, perhaps even a fairy tale but it also deals with some very dark issues. It's Young Adult fiction at its very best.

Fleurtje Eliza's review March 15, 2017

This book was like a breath of fresh air to me. Perhaps - as an adult - I should read more YA novels...  I liked the characters in Bend, they were real to me, everyone living according to her or his own rules on things of significance.  Lorraine, a spunky 17-year-old, being clear that she is queer. She doesn't doubt herself, which made me like her even more.  

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the book.

Kennedy's review March 12, 2017

Whimsical, with a heavy subject matter in a sort of not heavy way is how I describe this read. Lorraine Tyler is an interesting character due to her home town, place of residence, family dynamics and her strong desire to get out of town. In addition, the question of is she or is she not the black sheep of the family. Charity is a world wind yet fresh air for Lorraine. She has some family dynamic issues too, yet she was able to get out of town but has to return due to some issues at college. When the two meet, it is lust and desire from Lorraine and I may be interested from Charity. If you like interesting, intriguing and possibly usual family happenings then this is the read for you.  Thanks to Bold Strokes Books via NetGalley for the opportunity to review.

Tracy Roeder's review

  The enjoyment factor is sky high in this debut novel. I definitely want to hear more from this author!  

Though serious subjects are addressed --family relations, fitting into a community--it is her nimble use of humor that kept me turning the pages. The author is deft with a turn of phrase that nails each situation. Though her writing gives depth to her characters, it is her humor that makes them become the neighbor next door --vividly familiar.   

A likable cast, is muddling through life as we all do, finding themselves ignorant and wise, promiscuous and chaste, unsympathetic and kind. And herein is the writer's and reader's dream: to mirror and be mirrored, to teach and be teachable. In other words, I recognize myself in these characters.  

Thank you, Ms. Hedin, for giving me another look at myself. To see myself reflected with your humor, is, for me, an optimal way to grow-- which is the ultimate goal of all good writing and reading!

Margie's review April 7, 2017

Bend is about the family life of Lorraine, an intelligent, perceptive young woman in rural Minnesota, who grows into her identity as a lesbian.   

Bend touches on issues of mental illness, domestic abuse, and difficult family relations, but is never preachy. Hedin shows empathy for all her characters.  

The book's ending is the most moving depiction of true grace that I have read in a long time.  

Read it! You won't be sorry.

Amazon reviews

  5.0 out of 5 stars Bend is an experience for everyone! ByKaren Helfand on May 8, 2017  Format: Paperback    

Nancy is an incredible writer! I loved the story, and could relate to the feeling of isolation growing up and being lesbian. The writing in the book is vivid and respectful towards the characters. Excellent example of a thoughtful novel of a new gendra for not just Gay/Lesbian reader but everyone!


5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling story of growing up queer in a small Minnesota town. ByMargie Newmanon May 24, 2017  Format: Paperback    " Bend is about the family life of Lorraine, an intelligent, perceptive young woman in rural Minnesota, who grows into her identity as a lesbian.  Bend touches on issues of mental illness, domestic abuse, and difficult family relations, but is never preachy. Hedin shows empathy for all her characters.  The book's ending is the most moving depiction of true grace that I have read in a long time.  Read it! You won't be sorry. (less) "

5.0 out of 5 stars 

Beautifully crafted from start to finish ByAmazon Customeron June 5, 2017  Format: Paperback | Verified Purchase  

Beautifully crafted from start to finish. Hedin is a keen observer of the human condition and a writer of serious talent.

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't set it down! BySonja Um-Sirion June 7, 2017  Format: Paperback    What a great read Hedin has written! The complexity of living in a small town is brought to life through characters full of flaws and grace, playing a tug-of-war between tolerance and intolerance. There are surprises, and secrets that turn out to be known by some all along. The story line planted itself in my heart early on, and just kept pushing me through to its poignant, hopeful ending.


5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, subject matter and author ByRobin Johnsonon June 8, 2017  

Format: Paperback    I double dog dare you to set this book down,once you open the first page.Excellent book,subject matter and author.


5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written novel that makes you feel like you knew ... By Melissa Chirion June 23, 2017  Format: Paperback | Verified Purchase   Beautifully written novel that makes you feel like you knew the characters in another life. Tragedy and comedy all in one.


5.0 out of 5 starsA Wonderful Book; Don't Miss It.

BySwell Gal Maryon May 28, 2017

Format: Paperback

Bend is a book you pick-up, read the first page, and you are hooked. Nancy Hedin is a wordsmith of the highest caliber. Her metaphors are fresh and original. For someone who grew up in the big city reading books about growing up in rural cities makes me both thankful for the opportunities that I had and yet sad for the innocence and joy that I may have missed.

It is well-crafted (as a fellow writer I appreciate this) and engaging. But the two words I would use to describe it are FRESH and SASSY.

In addition, if you get a chance to hear Nancy read from her book don't miss it -- she brings it to life.


4.0 out of 5 stars  BEND!, May 12, 2017     By   desert girl   This review is from: Bend (Kindle Edition)  

 Bend is the reason people write fiction. Sometimes writers create characters so lifelike, they breathe on the page. Bend is a book to thoroughly enjoy while, in the process, see believably through the eyes of another. Lorraine Tyler is a queer high school senior in the tiny town of Bend, Minnesota. This protagonist, this book, is for anyone who has ever felt alone or outcast. But Bend is much more than that; it is a book I could not wait to read at night before bed. I did not want to finish it because I knew I would go into a reader’s depression without it, having become so attached to the characters and their circumstances. And, in addition, this is a novel that knows how to wrap up its tale, not just successfully, but brilliantly. I very much look forward to a sequel from Nancy Hedin. 

  

5.0 out of 5 stars A happy, sad, funny page turner By Paula Jean

on June 20, 2017  Format: Paperback | Verified Purchase   This debut novel from Nancy Hedin will keep you wanting more. It is a page turner that brings its characters to life and makes you feel like you know them from somewhere. Hedin's skill of character development and inserting humor into the story is one of the best parts of this book. Her ability to make each player in this tale lovable and flawed at the same time is outstanding. I couldn't put this book down and I so did not want it to end. Looking forward to more from this delightfully talented author.

MORE BUZZ

Barnes and Noble Nook Expess included Bend

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ b/nook-press-presents/_/N-rf4

Announce coming events

Reading: Wednesday, July 26th at Hamline Midway Library, St. Paul, MN from 6:30-7:30pm.

Reading: Thursday, July 27th at Little Falls library, Little Falls, MN from 2:30-3:30pm. 

Reading: Thursday, July 27th at Swanville Public Library, Swanville, MN from 6-7pm. 

Reading: Saturday, August 5, 20017 at 2pm, I will be reading at Barnes and Noble in St. Cloud, MN. 

Meet and Greet: Saturday, August 26th, 2017 at 2pm at Roseville Barnes and Noble, Roseville, MN. 

Reading: Saturday, September 9th at the Grey Eagle Library in Grey Eagle, MN.

Bookfest: Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 at Barnes and Noble in St. Cloud, MN. More information to follow.

Reading at Magers and Quinn: Thursday, September 28th at 7pm. 


Reading at Quatrefoil Library October 7, 2017 in Mpls at 1pm.


Panel for RECLAIM at Barnes and Noble in Roseville on October 10, 2017 at 7pm.


Deb's Book Club Saturday October 28, 2017


GSA group at Johnson High School Wednesday, November 1, 2017 3-4pm.


Amy, Jamie, and Sally's book club Saturday November 18, 2017 at 7pm.


Table at Common Good Books in St. Paul Saturday, November 25, 2017 1-3pm.


Table at Urban Growler--date pending.


WHO IS READING BEND?

Stella is reading Bend

Stella likes her novels like she likes her squirrels, face-paced with plenty of things to howl about!

Allen is reading Bend

Allen found Bend under his catalog of take-out mice and couldn't sniff it enough. Eventually he plopped on top of it like he does with all important papers. Allen says that Bend is a purrfect spring-summer read.

Dumpling is reading Bend

Don't underestimate the literary tastes of reptiles. Dumpling is a bearded dragon and he likes romance and adventure. He found both in reading Bend.

Lucy is reading Bend.

Lucy, the laundry cat is reading Bend between loads of laundry! She likes how warm her butt gets when she reads on the dryer. She says she likes Bend, but the dogs in the book scared her a little.

Velociraptor is reading Bend

This veliciraptor must have gotten a hold of an advanced copy of my novel, Bend. She said the story is consuming or maybe she said that she ate my book. It's hard to know for certain.

PEPE IS READING BEND

Pepe can talk. When I asked about my novel, Bend, Pepe gave a wolf whistle and yelled, "Rock and roll." I think that is a good sign.

Bears are reading Bend

This bear is holding up Bend. It was the first book she read after hibernation.

Deer are reading Bend

This dear, deer reader is reading Bend. He said that he wants to live in the woods at the Tyler's farm. He said that at dusk he would come out along the tree line on the north side of the property so that passing motorists can see him across the big field.

Turtles are reading Bend

Shelly said she is a slow reader, but found herself reading Bend as quick as a hare.

Fish

This usually coy koi said boldly that she likes Bend and wishes Little Swan Lake was warm enough for her to live there. For now, it is just a place she visits during dreaming and meditation.

and fowl are reading Bend

The ducks were a bit offended that Lorraine only raised chickens. The roosters crowed with pride until they realized that the chickens in this story were eventually fried and served with a good gravy.

Hedgehogs read Bend

These critters hedged their bet and bought several copies of Bend. They gave some away to forest friends and donated to several high school libraries.

This is Riley.

Riley and Thor live together. They are not romantically entangled.

This is Thor.

Riley and Thor enjoyed reading Bend because they liked the sibling rivalry.

Unknown gorilla read Bend.

She was reading very intently. I didn't ask any questions.

Pelicans are reading Bend.

I tried to ask her a question. I think she thought I was trying to take her copy of Bend. She kept squawking, "Mine, mine, mine!"

Giraff is reading Bend.

This giraffe said she liked the reference in Bend that a baby giraffe can be 6 ' at birth.

Gnomes read Bend.

This little guy was hanging out in the Miracle-Gro section of the garden store. He liked Bend's short chapters.

Daisy Jane is reading Bend

Daisy Jane keeps watch over Gramsie Road when she isn't reading new releases. She has a secret crush on the dog named Pants. To her, Pants is the real star of Bend.

Maxie is reading Bend.

Maxie lives with Daisy Jane. He likes the sunshine, his people Kristin and Tom, and he likes reading about those bad boy dogs, Satan and Buck. He wishes more of Bend was about dogs.

Maya is reading Bend

Maya likes to take a break from her pal, Luche and read a good book. She likes Bend.

Luche is reading Bend.

Luche has lots of energy, but sometimes he needs a break from all his activity. When it is time for a break he reads. He particularly likes a tale about a small town.

Flamingos read Bend

Birds who flock together, birds with flair, pink birds read books.

This Husky read Bend

First he read it, then he howled, and then he tried to eat it.