American Fork

American Fork

A shared love of the Utah landscape heals family wounds for two unlikely friends in this tale of restoration in the wake of loss and betrayal.

  • Paperback £15.99 || $22.95May 25, 2018

  • e-book £4.99 || $7.99May 25, 2018


Zacharias Harker is a brilliant botanist and an aging recluse. Haunted by his mistakes and living without his wife and daughter for the past twenty years, he hatches the idea to write his magnum opus, a book on the implications of climate change for humanity focused on the wildflowers of Utah's Wasatch Mountains. Just prior to the tragedy of 9/11, he hires a young artist, Alba, to paint flowers for the book. Over the course of their unlikely friendship, Harker convinces Alba to return to Chile to learn the story of her father's disappearance under Pinochet. Alba's discovery of her family history and her experience listening to the stories of Chileans who have resisted a government ruled by fear inspire her return to Utah with renewed purpose.

As America grows more distrusting of immigration and diversity, Alba commits her art to the protection of the environment and to a more inclusive meaning of family and belonging, while she and her husband, John, strive to learn Harker's hidden past and include him in their lives before it is too late. Rooted in the Mormon heritage of Utah but hemispheric in its reach, American Fork is a story of restoration and healing in the wake of loss and betrayal.


Spanning the mountain landscapes of the Great Basin and the coastal valleys of Chile, George Handley’s first novel American Fork explores deep personal questions: how can solace be found in the aftermath of personal betrayal or catastrophic loss? Are family ties merely an artifact of shared ancestry, or can we claim, and if needs be, renounce kinship on the basis of personal affinity or revulsion? Does a spiritual connection to the earth replace or augment religious conviction? Replete with detail, Handley’s description of the ongoing debate between a believing young woman and a grizzled religious sceptic builds to a stunning but deeply moving conclusion. Following on the success of his environmental memoir Home Waters, Handley has here produced the most important ecological novel set in Utah since Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang. ~ Paul Alan Cox, Goldman Environmental Prize Winner and TIME Hero of Medicine

"We know that novels are fictional, so we see them as unreal, and yet the very best twine inextricably with our lives to become part of our reality. George Handley’s masterful American Fork unifies sadness and beauty, individuals and communities, humans and nature in profound and unforgettable ways. Alba and Mr Harker’s intersecting quests reveal (or remind) that everything is connected, everything significant, not only in the world of the book, but in our world, which is the same." --Pat Madden, author of Sublime Physick ~ Patrick Madden, personal communication

"This is a riveting story, beautifully written and skillfully told. It engages the reader in a fresh exploration of enduring themes of family and culture, nature and religion. It will change your perspective as it did mine." --Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology ~ Mary Evelyn Tucker, personal communication

"George Handley’s novel, American Fork, is a significant contribution to American letters. Handley is a familiar voice in Utah’s environmental movement. His creative non-fiction work, Home Waters, which explores the history and meaning of the Provo River drainage, has already become a classic in Western ecological literature. This new novel will place Handley among that small group of Western writers who have beautifully mastered both fiction and creative non-fiction in ways that make his work in both unforgettable. Like his previous books, Handley immerses you in a sense of place, and draws a rich portrait of the land and its people. American Fork expands on that vision in this splendid novel, which ranges from Utah’s Wasatch Front to the heart of Chile. From the opening scenes, we are pulled into the nuanced and captivating lives of the novel’s memorable characters, Zach Harker and Alba. And as we come to understand their complexity, fragility, and weaknesses we see a mirror of the same in the landscapes they inhabit. Handley has a created a modern classic. This will be read for a long time, but there is no sense in delaying the pleasure and depth this book will bring. Read it now." --Steve Peck, author of The Scholar of Moab and Gilda Trillum: Shepherdess of Rats. ~ Steve Peck, personal communication

"A leading voice in Mormon environmentalism—not an oxymoron—George Handley also speaks to the global ethics of stewardship. From his Utah home, he sees the world. Handley envisions a consilience of science, religion, and democracy—a gift of imagination in our current climate of danger.” —Jared Farmer, author of On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape ~ Jared Farmer, personal communication

"In this God-haunted story of a Job who has long since cursed God and the young Mormon artist who learns to reconstitute him, George Handley calls us forcefully to ponder where we as human beings begin and end. Where, in the glorious tangles of biology, ecology, genealogy, theology, mortal misery, and divine mystery can we be found, and who will, at last, do the finding? In this passionate environmental novel, Handley proposes a troubling, insightful, and deeply Mormon solution to the centuries-old question of theodicy: how could God possibly be good when our lives are, too often, broken by grief?" --Samuel Morris Brown, author of Through the Valley of Shadows: Living Wills, Intensive Care, and Making Medicine Human ~ Samuel Morris Brown, personal communication

Praise for Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River "What a pleasing book. George Handley has calmly scripted a place-based masterwork.... again and again, the writing lifted me with its precise similes or its able flexing of metaphorical muscle."--Jeffrey McCarthy, author of Green Modernism ~ Jeffrey McCarthy, Western American Literature

Praise for Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River "You’ll enjoy this masterful book, which is destined to become a classic"--Richard Cracroft, BYU Magazine ~ Richard Cracroft, BYU Magazine

Praise for Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River "practices theology like a doctor practices CPR: not as secondhand theory but as a chest-cracking, lung-inflating, life-saving intervention.... It's what you've been wanting to read." --Adam Miller, author of Letters to a Young Mormon ~ Adam Miller, Times and Seasons(blog)

George B. Handley
George B. Handley George B. Handley is an internationally known literary scholar and ecocritic whose work is characterized by its comparative and innovative r...
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