Pipers at the Gates of Dawn Pipers at the Gates of Dawn

In the space of less than a year, three people in a small New England village make life-defining decisions. When a stranger moves into Harrow—a stranger without a past and without a conscience—old conflicts flare, threatening familiar foundations, and exposing possibilities of new ones. In the tradition of Winesburg, Ohio, Lynn Stegner takes the linked story form to new heights as she explores the interactions of circumstance and temperament in determining people’s choices in the face of their unsettled issues.

In “The Hired Man,” Ray Rinaldi, a teenager running his alcoholic father’s farm, agonizes over his family obligations and his opportunity to escape the stifling confines of Harrow. As spring arrives he hires a stranger, Sam Chase, to help with farm chores. Spring gives way to the arrival of summer residents in the title piece, “Pipers at the Gates of Dawn,” in which Dru Hammond wrestles with her growing sense of disconnection from her husband and her concern over the disturbing behavior of her youngest son. In “Indian Summer,” Jack Sayers, a fiercely independent former summer resident now settled in Harrow, tells his college-bound nephew the story of his itinerant life but leaves out something important.

Stegner’s acute and rich writing reveals, in profoundly original ways, the troubled fault-lines of the relationships that constitute each novella. What happens as Chase appears twice more links the novellas in unexpected and powerful ways, giving all three stories, their characters, and the town of Harrow itself a compelling unity that readers will recall long after the book is finished.

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“This is beautiful writing: the kind that articulates precise emotional complexity in sensuous terms.”


“This collection of three interlocking novellas set in Harrow, Vt., during the same year resonates with the depth and clarity of a cathedral bell…. In concise and elegant prose, [Stegner] conveys an exquisite sense of place, giving readers a captivating you-are-there feeling. A major accomplishment.”

Library Journal

“In this fine, poetic book…[Stegner] gets inside her characters, makes us know them, care about them, and through them, we know a place where the woods are thick and fog hovers over the lakes in the early morning.”

San Jose Mercury News

“Stegner dissects with taut prose and decisive narrative moves the complex emotional states of characters living in a hamlet in Vermont called Harrow…. Stegner’s storytelling skills are impressive. These expressively written tales maintain their momentum even as Stegner commands the reader’s attention to look at fog over a lake or ice cream melting into homemade apple pie.”

Publishers Weekly

“A beautiful and evocative book.”

Burlington Free Press

“Each of these tales leaves a challenging number of concepts to ponder, and a presentation to applaud for its intelligence and distinctive appeal.”

Sunday Times Argus (Vt.)

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