Survive a Hot and Poisoned Landscape: Announcing Desert Creatures by Kay Chronister

Set in a near-future American West, one young woman will find salvation or become just another rot-lonely skull in the sand. Desert Creatures is the debut novel from Kay Chronister, coming in the Fall of 2022 ​from Erewhon.

In a world that has become treacherous and desiccated, Magdala has always had to fight to survive. At nine years old, she and her father, Xavier, are exiled from their home, fleeing through the Sonoran Desert, searching for refuge.

As violence pursues them, they join a handful of survivors on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Las Vegas, where it is said the vigilante saints reside, bright with neon power. Magdala, born with a clubfoot, is going to be healed. But when faced with the strange horrors of the desert, one by one the pilgrims fall victim to a hideous sickness—leaving Magdala to fend for herself.

After surviving for seven years on her own, Magdala is sick of waiting for her miracle. Recruiting an exiled Vegas priest named Elam at gunpoint to serve as her guide, Magdala turns her gaze to Vegas once more, and this time, nothing will stop her. The pair form a fragile alliance as they navigate the darkest and strangest reaches of the desert on a trip that takes her further from salvation even as she nears the holy city.

With ferocious imagination and poetic precision, Desert Creatures is a story of endurance at the expense of redemption. What compromise does survival require of a woman, and can she ever unlearn the instincts that have kept her alive?

Author Kay Chronister shared her excitement:

Desert Creatures developed from an image that I’d had of a Canterbury Tales-style pilgrimage in the American Southwest. From there, the book evolved into a love/hate letter to Westerns and post-apocalyptic fiction. These genres traditionally suggest that only the “strong” would survive in the absence of modern society’s strictures and guard rails—with “strong” usually defined as white, male, able-bodied, and violent. Desert Creatures is my response to that assumption. Magdala’s journey is as much about unlearning survivalist and individualistic instincts as it is about learning how to find hope and beauty in a ravaged world. I’m thrilled to be working with Erewhon Books on this novel, and so excited to bring it to readers!”

Editor Sarah Guan says:

“I’ve always been a fan of stories about the collapse of the traditional world order and the new communities that are fashioned from the wreckage. Rather than violent lone wolf sagas in the wastelands of the future, my favorites in the genre—from Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven to Peng Shepherd’s The Book of M—tend to be part thought experiment about a speculative future built on questions about the present day, part journey of self-discovery, and part exploration of human connection and resilience in extremis.

In Desert Creatures, I found all of these elements and more, exquisitely realized and thoughtfully refashioned under the pen of a truly unique talent. It’s as much a love letter to the landscape and storied culture of the American Southwest as it is a hauntingly surreal and magical tale of burning faith colliding with an even stranger reality. We can all find a bit of ourselves in Magdala, especially in these unprecedented times; she’s seen more than anyone would hope to, in a short and difficult lifetime in a land ravaged by ecological disaster, and learns to navigate the harsh world that shaped her with some measure of grace and dignity. I’m certain that readers everywhere will be moved and transported by Magdala’s story, and I’m delighted that Erewhon gets to bring Kay’s gorgeous book into the world.”


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