An apposite novel echoing the current state of America—where mass shootings have become more American than apple pie—John Englehardt’s tremendously affecting debut, Bloomland, explores one such horrific event. When Eli, an increasingly misanthropic student eventually reaches a point of no return, he unleashes the full potential of an assault rifle on his peers in a university library during finals week, leaving twelve people dead. 

Delivered in revolving accounts in the immediacy intrinsic of the second-person viewpoint by a first-person narrator, who lies always somewhere on the periphery, Bloomland provides the impetus of, and no excuse for, the young-man-turned-domestic-terrorist’s cowardly act of violence. The novel follows Eli’s existence before and after the shooting, along with the lives of Rose, a teenage woman attempting to camouflage her past while away at college, and Eddie, a young professor who loses his wife in the massacre. The pages of Bloomland are graced with empathy and anger; confusion alongside profoundly powerful insight and understanding of the post-traumatic psyche: “You can’t see all the votaried windows. How the red geraniums in front of our houses will no longer just be red geraniums, but ones that exist in a new world, where even a color carries with it a memory of pain,”  

Gorgeously written, intrepid by design, and deeply disconcerting in its authenticity, Bloomland is a remarkable achievement and stands out as an incredibly important novel of our time.

Dzanc Books.

—Review by Nicholas John-Francis Claro