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The Sun Collective

A Novel

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Paperback
$17.00 US
5.17"W x 7.99"H x 0.66"D  
On sale Oct 05, 2021 | 336 Pages | 978-1-9848-9971-2
| Grades 9-12 + AP/IB
The Sun Collective is a timely and unsettling novel about the people drawn to—and unmoored by—a local activist group more dangerous than it appears.
 
Once a promising actor, Tim Brettigan has gone missing. His father thinks he may have seen him among some homeless people. 

And though she knows he left on purpose, his mother has been searching for him all over their home city of Minneapolis. She checks the usual places—churches, storefronts, benches—and stumbles upon a local community group with lofty goals and an enigmatic leader. Christina, a young woman rapidly becoming addicted to a boutique drug that gives her a feeling of blessedness, is inexplicably drawn to the same collective by a man who’s convinced he may start a revolution. 

A vision of modern American society and the specters of the consumerism, fanaticism, and fear that haunt it, The Sun Collective captures both the mystery and the violence that punctuate our daily lives.
 
“What a spectacular book this is. A parable for our ominous times, it has revolution, murder, young love, magic, and marital squabbling in its pages—a novel of ideas in sly and modest Baxter form.  Quite amazing.” —Joan Silber, author of Improvement

“Only the supremely talented Charles Baxter could write a novel that combines blistering social critique with humor, mysticism, passion, and grief. The Sun Collective speaks directly to the unsettled time in which we live. The characters in this brilliant, beautiful, and deeply insightful book will live on in your imagination for years.” —Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirement

“I’ve been reading, with intense and escalating admiration, Charles Baxter’s novels and stories and essays for decades, but nothing quite prepared me for the radical brilliance of The Sun Collective. It’s as if Sherwood Anderson finally made manifest what was always there: his inner Samuel Beckett. That very real despair is here but also transformed into something else, by book’s end. The dialogue about Hitchcock’s MacGuffin is my single favorite thing Baxter has ever written.” —David Shields, author of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

“A strange and wonderful novel! It begins in comic realism, then becomes dream-like and spooky, mixing the mundane and the fantastic. Imagine an American Murakami, wildly inventive yet full of real emotions and recognizable human beings. This is Charles Baxter’s best novel since The Feast of Love, with a subtle political bite that is original and timely.” —Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters

“Tense, wry and ultimately touching. . . . There is plenty of artful subtext in The Sun Collective, and a burning house or two. . . .  But Baxter’s true gift is in describing the tender complexities of a relationship. Here, it’s the wistful, at times contentious, ‘post-love’ of Harold and Alma, whose real problem might not be the times, but time, and their own senescence and mortality.” —The New York Times

“Baxter infuses his tale of class warfare in the social-media era with a hint of the supernatural.” —The New Yorker

“Absorbing. . . . beautifully rendered. . . . Baxter seems content not knowing all the answers, or maybe believing that motivations are no easier to fully comprehend than instances of everyday magic. His gift is to tune us into the beauty and the strangeness that walks among us, right here in river city.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“With his latest novel, The Sun Collective Mr. Baxter continues to chip away at the myth of the Midwest’s innocence. . . . Mr. Baxter points toward an inspiration for this duality by naming the Brettigans’ pets after characters from Mikhail Bulgakov’s hallucinatory classic ‘The Master and Margarita.’ But the likeness that occurred to me is with Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, where the underlying chaos is both concealed and somehow deepened by the inviting, mannerly prose.” —Wall Street Journal

“Artfully subtle. . . . An ekphrastic novel disguised as a teleological mystery. . . . The Sun Collective challenges the reader as life itself does—at times postponing gratification, at other times brilliantly illuminating what is actual.” —On the Seawall

“Like a skilled magician, Charles Baxter messes with reality just enough to transport the reader. . . . Daring. . . . There is an eerie sense of urgency to this novel. . . . For those who enjoy thrillers, action and mystery with a healthy dose of political tension that incorporates dystopian and supernatural elements, The Sun Collective is a must-read. I highly recommend it.” —Booktrib

“Baxter’s portrayal of American society is always necessary—perhaps never more than now.” —San Francisco Book Review

“Fans may be surprised at the dark tenor of his latest novel, but Baxter—poet, essayist, and National Book Award finalist for The Feast of Love—masterfully captures the zeitgeist of our country as we navigate multiple crises, some he could never have predicted. This is truly a compelling book for our times.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Fiction virtuoso Baxter’s artistry and merciless insights are in full, intoxicating flower in this sinuous, dark, and dramatic tale. . . . He has brilliantly choreographed a wholly unnerving plunge into alarming aberrations private and public, festering political catastrophe, and woefully warped love.” —Booklist

“The prose throughout is graceful, the writing perceptive, resonant, and deeply sympathetic. . . . An exceptional work.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Engrossing. . . . A thoughtful study of anger, grief, and hope.” —Publishers Weekly
© Keri Pickett

CHARLES BAXTER is the author of the novels The Feast of Love (nominated for the National Book Award), First Light, Saul and Patsy, Shadow Play, The Soul Thief, and The Sun Collective, and the story collections Believers, Gryphon, Harmony of the World, A Relative Stranger, There’s Something I Want You to Do, and Through the Safety Net. His stories have appeared in several anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and The O. Henry Prize Story Anthology. He has won the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Baxter lives in Minneapolis.

View titles by Charles Baxter
Bracing herself, and involuntarily bunching her shoulders together, she walked forward out of the conservatory and into the snowstorm outside, following a path that led into the little zoo. Almost no one was here. She saw one maintenance worker clearing a path on the sidewalk, and, ahead of her, a tall forlorn solitary man, though certainly not Wye, wearing a stocking cap, a red scarf, and a long brown winter overcoat, approaching her. The guy was walking with his head down, his hands in his overcoat pockets, past the pri­mate cage. Another lost soul, she thought, somebody killing time by wandering through the zoo in November. Seeing Christina, he turned toward her and waved, a gesture of pure loneliness. Snow covered the lenses of his eyeglasses and was nestling in his eyebrows, though he must have seen her somehow, because, after all, he had waved at her. He coughed.
 
What the hell: she waved back.
 
Putting her hands back into her pockets, Christina plunged ahead, the snow now getting under her cap into her eyes and sticking to her eyelashes, as she walked into the Primate Building. Inside, the little monkeys, or whatever they were, were crouched in pairs grooming each other, and after studying their solicitous behavior, she walked out the other side of the building toward the western edge of the zoo where the wolves were caged.
 
###
 
Their outdoor pen was about half the size of a football field. The wolves, like the snow, were white, and one of them was pacing back and forth at the edge of the opposite side near the high fencing. Each time the wolf reached the corner, it would turn and head back in the direction from which it had come. It seemed to be trying to solve a problem. The animal appeared to be thinking. What, Chris­tina wondered, was it worrying about? Maybe the problem it was trying to solve was What am I doing here? How did I get here? And how do I get out? Christina projected her thoughts into the wolf’s mind, and thoughts from the wolf came back to her. There must be an answer, the wolf believed, in wolf-thought. In wolf-world, everything had a purpose, except being in a zoo. All caged and imprisoned creatures were forced to mull over such questions.
 
For a moment, looking at the height of the fencing, Christina imagined herself inside the enclosure, and the wolf outside, free.
 
On this side of the cage, only half-visible in the storm, stood Wye. He wore a bright blue parka matted with snow, thick mittens, and a woolen cap on which snow had already accumulated. His dark glasses, the ones that he customarily wore, had a curtain of snow over them, and more snow was accumulating in his scraggly beard. He looked like a sage in disguise, a snow-bespectacled shaman. As Christina approached him, she heard him muttering instructions to the wolves.
 
“This is where the magic happens,” Wye said, studying the pacing wolf.
 
“What? What magic?” Christina asked. “I don’t see any magic.”
 
“You have come here,” Wye continued, still not turning around to acknowledge her—it was one of his gifts to know when people were nearby him, given his creepy extrasensitive human radar—“you have come here to ask about your boyfriend, Ludlow, and about the other one, Timothy.”
 
“Yes. How did you know?”
 
“Wolves don’t like human beings, did you know that?” Wye asked. “They detest and avoid us. They can’t stand the way we smell. Our smell offends them. Even when starving, they will not come into a city. If they come near us, it is against their nature.” All at once he let out a whistle, followed by a high keening cry, an ai-ai-ai that made both wolves regard him slowly and suspiciously, as if he’d spoken the password but mispronounced it. In response, however, the two wolves ambled toward Wye and Christina, on their side of the metal fencing. On the back of each wolf was a layer of snow. Wye reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of candy, a Skittle, but instead of feeding it to the wolf, he popped it into his mouth. It was a territorial gesture.
 
“Wye, I think Ludlow is in some kind of trouble, and I—”
 
“Oh, he’s not in any trouble, Christina dear. Don’t you worry. Anyway, I wouldn’t call it ‘trouble.’ ”
 
“I think he’s constructing a bomb or something.” One of the wolves was still approaching the two of them, seemingly not afraid. “He won’t talk about it. I don’t know for sure, but I have this intuition. It has me worried. He talks in his sleep.”
 
“Did you know that the Aztec god of the sun was Huitzilopochtli?” Wye’s voice was phlegmy. “He was also the god of war, and so he did double duty. Tlaloc was the rain god. Both bloodthirsty gods required human sacrifice. It was the source of their power.” His narration grew soft and tender, at a bedtime-story level. “Thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children. Those being sacrificed—well, their beating hearts were sawed out with an obsidian knife and then burned, right at the top of the Aztec pyramid. Imagine the flow of blood down the steps, the great pools of blood at the bottom! Children, too, were sacrificed, their little hearts cut right out of them. The gods require terrible, unthinkable actions from us. They give themselves that particular permission. That’s why they’re gods. Gods don’t make requests. They make demands. You know: Abraham and Isaac. The Old Testament God was like that. Implacable.”
 
“I wonder if there’s a god of winter.”
 
“Ullr,” he said. “In other mythologies, Boreas.”
 
“Wye,” she asked, as both wolves edged closer, “why are you telling me this? Why are we here? I’m freezing out here.”
 
“Because, my dear,” he said, turning his dark glasses toward her, “the gods are about to ask something terrible of you, some actions that traditionally would cause fear and trembling, but now, in the modern age . . .”
 
His voice trailed off, or perhaps he was still speaking, and Christina couldn’t hear his words because the snow continued to fall even harder than before, muffling his voice, and she was growing inattentive because, to her astonishment, the wolves continued to come nearer to them, as if Christina and Wye were their prey, but what was most odd about their presence before them was that their white fur had been camouflaged, subsumed, by the thick snowfall, producing a moment when, looking through the lattice-pattern fencing, all Christina could see of the wolves were their gray eyes seemingly floating in midair and fixed directly on her.
 
It was the strangest sight, those eyes in the midst of the snowfall, focused on her like suspended beams of light asking her a question to which she did not yet have an answer.
 
“What will be asked of me?” she said, still watching the animals. “What am I being called to do?”
 
“That would be telling,” she thought she heard Wye say, but when she turned toward him, he seemed not to be there any longer.
"What a spectacular book this is.  A parable for our ominous times, it has revolution, murder, young love, magic, and marital squabbling in its pages—a novel of ideas in sly and modest Baxter form.  Quite amazing." —Joan Silber, author of Improvement

"Only the supremely talented Charles Baxter could write a novel that combines blistering social critique with humor, mysticism, passion, and grief. The Sun Collective speaks directly to the unsettled time in which we live.  The characters in this brilliant, beautiful, and deeply insightful book will live on in your imagination for years." —Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirement

“I’ve been reading, with intense and escalating admiration, Charles Baxter’s novels and stories and essays for decades, but nothing quite prepared me for the radical brilliance of The Sun Collective.It’s as if Sherwood Anderson finally made manifest what was always there: his inner Samuel Beckett. That very real despair is here but also transformed into something else, by book’s end. The dialogue about Hitchcock’s MacGuffin is my single favorite thing Baxter has ever written.” —David Shields, author of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

"A strange and wonderful novel! It begins in comic realism, then becomes dream-like and spooky, mixing the mundane and the fantastic. Imagine an American Murakami, wildly inventive yet full of real emotions and recognizable human beings. This is Charles Baxter's best novel since The Feast of Love, with a subtle political bite that is original and timely." —Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters

"Tense, wry and ultimately touching . . . There is plenty of artful subtext in The Sun Collective, and a burning house or two . . .  But Baxter’s true gift is in describing the tender complexities of a relationship. Here, it’s the wistful, at times contentious, “post-love” of Harold and Alma, whose real problem might not be the times, but time, and their own senescence and mortality.” —The New York Times

"Baxter infuses his tale of class warfare in the social-media era with a hint of the supernatural." —The New Yorker

“Absorbing . . . beautifully rendered . . . Baxter seems content not knowing all the answers, or maybe believing that motivations are no easier to fully comprehend than instances of everyday magic. His gift is to tune us into the beauty and the strangeness that walks among us, right here in river city.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“With his latest novel, The Sun Collective Mr. Baxter continues to chip away at the myth of the Midwest’s innocence . . . Mr. Baxter points toward an inspiration for this duality by naming the Brettigans’ pets after characters from Mikhail Bulgakov’s hallucinatory classic “The Master and Margarita.” But the likeness that occurred to me is with Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, where the underlying chaos is both concealed and somehow deepened by the inviting, mannerly prose.”—Wall Street Journal

“Artfully subtle . . . An ekphrastic novel disguised as a teleological mystery . . . The Sun Collective challenges the reader as life itself does – at times postponing gratification, at other times brilliantly illuminating what is actual.”On the Seawall

“Like a skilled magician, Charles Baxter messes with reality just enough to transport the reader . . . Daring . . . There is an eerie sense of urgency to this novel . . . For those who enjoy thrillers, action and mystery with a healthy dose of political tension that incorporates dystopian and supernatural elements, The Sun Collective is a must-read. I highly recommend it.”—Booktrib

“Baxter’s portrayal of American society is always necessary—perhaps never more than now.” San Francisco Book Review

“Fans may be surprised at the dark tenor of his latest novel, but Baxter—poet, essayist, and National Book Award finalist for The Feast of Love—masterfully captures the zeitgeist of our country as we navigate multiple crises, some he could never have predicted. This is truly a compelling book for our times.”Library Journal (starred)

"Fiction virtuoso Baxter's artistry and merciless insights are in full, intoxicating flower in this sinuous, dark, and dramatic tale . . . He has brilliantly choreographed a wholly unnerving plunge into alarming aberrations private and public, festering political catastrophe, and woefully warped love."Booklist

"The prose throughout is graceful, the writing perceptive, resonant, and deeply sympathetic . . . An exceptional work." —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"Engrossing . . . A thoughtful study of anger, grief, and hope." Publishers Weekly

About

The Sun Collective is a timely and unsettling novel about the people drawn to—and unmoored by—a local activist group more dangerous than it appears.
 
Once a promising actor, Tim Brettigan has gone missing. His father thinks he may have seen him among some homeless people. 

And though she knows he left on purpose, his mother has been searching for him all over their home city of Minneapolis. She checks the usual places—churches, storefronts, benches—and stumbles upon a local community group with lofty goals and an enigmatic leader. Christina, a young woman rapidly becoming addicted to a boutique drug that gives her a feeling of blessedness, is inexplicably drawn to the same collective by a man who’s convinced he may start a revolution. 

A vision of modern American society and the specters of the consumerism, fanaticism, and fear that haunt it, The Sun Collective captures both the mystery and the violence that punctuate our daily lives.
 
“What a spectacular book this is. A parable for our ominous times, it has revolution, murder, young love, magic, and marital squabbling in its pages—a novel of ideas in sly and modest Baxter form.  Quite amazing.” —Joan Silber, author of Improvement

“Only the supremely talented Charles Baxter could write a novel that combines blistering social critique with humor, mysticism, passion, and grief. The Sun Collective speaks directly to the unsettled time in which we live. The characters in this brilliant, beautiful, and deeply insightful book will live on in your imagination for years.” —Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirement

“I’ve been reading, with intense and escalating admiration, Charles Baxter’s novels and stories and essays for decades, but nothing quite prepared me for the radical brilliance of The Sun Collective. It’s as if Sherwood Anderson finally made manifest what was always there: his inner Samuel Beckett. That very real despair is here but also transformed into something else, by book’s end. The dialogue about Hitchcock’s MacGuffin is my single favorite thing Baxter has ever written.” —David Shields, author of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

“A strange and wonderful novel! It begins in comic realism, then becomes dream-like and spooky, mixing the mundane and the fantastic. Imagine an American Murakami, wildly inventive yet full of real emotions and recognizable human beings. This is Charles Baxter’s best novel since The Feast of Love, with a subtle political bite that is original and timely.” —Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters

“Tense, wry and ultimately touching. . . . There is plenty of artful subtext in The Sun Collective, and a burning house or two. . . .  But Baxter’s true gift is in describing the tender complexities of a relationship. Here, it’s the wistful, at times contentious, ‘post-love’ of Harold and Alma, whose real problem might not be the times, but time, and their own senescence and mortality.” —The New York Times

“Baxter infuses his tale of class warfare in the social-media era with a hint of the supernatural.” —The New Yorker

“Absorbing. . . . beautifully rendered. . . . Baxter seems content not knowing all the answers, or maybe believing that motivations are no easier to fully comprehend than instances of everyday magic. His gift is to tune us into the beauty and the strangeness that walks among us, right here in river city.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“With his latest novel, The Sun Collective Mr. Baxter continues to chip away at the myth of the Midwest’s innocence. . . . Mr. Baxter points toward an inspiration for this duality by naming the Brettigans’ pets after characters from Mikhail Bulgakov’s hallucinatory classic ‘The Master and Margarita.’ But the likeness that occurred to me is with Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, where the underlying chaos is both concealed and somehow deepened by the inviting, mannerly prose.” —Wall Street Journal

“Artfully subtle. . . . An ekphrastic novel disguised as a teleological mystery. . . . The Sun Collective challenges the reader as life itself does—at times postponing gratification, at other times brilliantly illuminating what is actual.” —On the Seawall

“Like a skilled magician, Charles Baxter messes with reality just enough to transport the reader. . . . Daring. . . . There is an eerie sense of urgency to this novel. . . . For those who enjoy thrillers, action and mystery with a healthy dose of political tension that incorporates dystopian and supernatural elements, The Sun Collective is a must-read. I highly recommend it.” —Booktrib

“Baxter’s portrayal of American society is always necessary—perhaps never more than now.” —San Francisco Book Review

“Fans may be surprised at the dark tenor of his latest novel, but Baxter—poet, essayist, and National Book Award finalist for The Feast of Love—masterfully captures the zeitgeist of our country as we navigate multiple crises, some he could never have predicted. This is truly a compelling book for our times.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Fiction virtuoso Baxter’s artistry and merciless insights are in full, intoxicating flower in this sinuous, dark, and dramatic tale. . . . He has brilliantly choreographed a wholly unnerving plunge into alarming aberrations private and public, festering political catastrophe, and woefully warped love.” —Booklist

“The prose throughout is graceful, the writing perceptive, resonant, and deeply sympathetic. . . . An exceptional work.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Engrossing. . . . A thoughtful study of anger, grief, and hope.” —Publishers Weekly

Author

© Keri Pickett

CHARLES BAXTER is the author of the novels The Feast of Love (nominated for the National Book Award), First Light, Saul and Patsy, Shadow Play, The Soul Thief, and The Sun Collective, and the story collections Believers, Gryphon, Harmony of the World, A Relative Stranger, There’s Something I Want You to Do, and Through the Safety Net. His stories have appeared in several anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and The O. Henry Prize Story Anthology. He has won the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Baxter lives in Minneapolis.

View titles by Charles Baxter

Excerpt

Bracing herself, and involuntarily bunching her shoulders together, she walked forward out of the conservatory and into the snowstorm outside, following a path that led into the little zoo. Almost no one was here. She saw one maintenance worker clearing a path on the sidewalk, and, ahead of her, a tall forlorn solitary man, though certainly not Wye, wearing a stocking cap, a red scarf, and a long brown winter overcoat, approaching her. The guy was walking with his head down, his hands in his overcoat pockets, past the pri­mate cage. Another lost soul, she thought, somebody killing time by wandering through the zoo in November. Seeing Christina, he turned toward her and waved, a gesture of pure loneliness. Snow covered the lenses of his eyeglasses and was nestling in his eyebrows, though he must have seen her somehow, because, after all, he had waved at her. He coughed.
 
What the hell: she waved back.
 
Putting her hands back into her pockets, Christina plunged ahead, the snow now getting under her cap into her eyes and sticking to her eyelashes, as she walked into the Primate Building. Inside, the little monkeys, or whatever they were, were crouched in pairs grooming each other, and after studying their solicitous behavior, she walked out the other side of the building toward the western edge of the zoo where the wolves were caged.
 
###
 
Their outdoor pen was about half the size of a football field. The wolves, like the snow, were white, and one of them was pacing back and forth at the edge of the opposite side near the high fencing. Each time the wolf reached the corner, it would turn and head back in the direction from which it had come. It seemed to be trying to solve a problem. The animal appeared to be thinking. What, Chris­tina wondered, was it worrying about? Maybe the problem it was trying to solve was What am I doing here? How did I get here? And how do I get out? Christina projected her thoughts into the wolf’s mind, and thoughts from the wolf came back to her. There must be an answer, the wolf believed, in wolf-thought. In wolf-world, everything had a purpose, except being in a zoo. All caged and imprisoned creatures were forced to mull over such questions.
 
For a moment, looking at the height of the fencing, Christina imagined herself inside the enclosure, and the wolf outside, free.
 
On this side of the cage, only half-visible in the storm, stood Wye. He wore a bright blue parka matted with snow, thick mittens, and a woolen cap on which snow had already accumulated. His dark glasses, the ones that he customarily wore, had a curtain of snow over them, and more snow was accumulating in his scraggly beard. He looked like a sage in disguise, a snow-bespectacled shaman. As Christina approached him, she heard him muttering instructions to the wolves.
 
“This is where the magic happens,” Wye said, studying the pacing wolf.
 
“What? What magic?” Christina asked. “I don’t see any magic.”
 
“You have come here,” Wye continued, still not turning around to acknowledge her—it was one of his gifts to know when people were nearby him, given his creepy extrasensitive human radar—“you have come here to ask about your boyfriend, Ludlow, and about the other one, Timothy.”
 
“Yes. How did you know?”
 
“Wolves don’t like human beings, did you know that?” Wye asked. “They detest and avoid us. They can’t stand the way we smell. Our smell offends them. Even when starving, they will not come into a city. If they come near us, it is against their nature.” All at once he let out a whistle, followed by a high keening cry, an ai-ai-ai that made both wolves regard him slowly and suspiciously, as if he’d spoken the password but mispronounced it. In response, however, the two wolves ambled toward Wye and Christina, on their side of the metal fencing. On the back of each wolf was a layer of snow. Wye reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of candy, a Skittle, but instead of feeding it to the wolf, he popped it into his mouth. It was a territorial gesture.
 
“Wye, I think Ludlow is in some kind of trouble, and I—”
 
“Oh, he’s not in any trouble, Christina dear. Don’t you worry. Anyway, I wouldn’t call it ‘trouble.’ ”
 
“I think he’s constructing a bomb or something.” One of the wolves was still approaching the two of them, seemingly not afraid. “He won’t talk about it. I don’t know for sure, but I have this intuition. It has me worried. He talks in his sleep.”
 
“Did you know that the Aztec god of the sun was Huitzilopochtli?” Wye’s voice was phlegmy. “He was also the god of war, and so he did double duty. Tlaloc was the rain god. Both bloodthirsty gods required human sacrifice. It was the source of their power.” His narration grew soft and tender, at a bedtime-story level. “Thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children. Those being sacrificed—well, their beating hearts were sawed out with an obsidian knife and then burned, right at the top of the Aztec pyramid. Imagine the flow of blood down the steps, the great pools of blood at the bottom! Children, too, were sacrificed, their little hearts cut right out of them. The gods require terrible, unthinkable actions from us. They give themselves that particular permission. That’s why they’re gods. Gods don’t make requests. They make demands. You know: Abraham and Isaac. The Old Testament God was like that. Implacable.”
 
“I wonder if there’s a god of winter.”
 
“Ullr,” he said. “In other mythologies, Boreas.”
 
“Wye,” she asked, as both wolves edged closer, “why are you telling me this? Why are we here? I’m freezing out here.”
 
“Because, my dear,” he said, turning his dark glasses toward her, “the gods are about to ask something terrible of you, some actions that traditionally would cause fear and trembling, but now, in the modern age . . .”
 
His voice trailed off, or perhaps he was still speaking, and Christina couldn’t hear his words because the snow continued to fall even harder than before, muffling his voice, and she was growing inattentive because, to her astonishment, the wolves continued to come nearer to them, as if Christina and Wye were their prey, but what was most odd about their presence before them was that their white fur had been camouflaged, subsumed, by the thick snowfall, producing a moment when, looking through the lattice-pattern fencing, all Christina could see of the wolves were their gray eyes seemingly floating in midair and fixed directly on her.
 
It was the strangest sight, those eyes in the midst of the snowfall, focused on her like suspended beams of light asking her a question to which she did not yet have an answer.
 
“What will be asked of me?” she said, still watching the animals. “What am I being called to do?”
 
“That would be telling,” she thought she heard Wye say, but when she turned toward him, he seemed not to be there any longer.

Praise

"What a spectacular book this is.  A parable for our ominous times, it has revolution, murder, young love, magic, and marital squabbling in its pages—a novel of ideas in sly and modest Baxter form.  Quite amazing." —Joan Silber, author of Improvement

"Only the supremely talented Charles Baxter could write a novel that combines blistering social critique with humor, mysticism, passion, and grief. The Sun Collective speaks directly to the unsettled time in which we live.  The characters in this brilliant, beautiful, and deeply insightful book will live on in your imagination for years." —Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirement

“I’ve been reading, with intense and escalating admiration, Charles Baxter’s novels and stories and essays for decades, but nothing quite prepared me for the radical brilliance of The Sun Collective.It’s as if Sherwood Anderson finally made manifest what was always there: his inner Samuel Beckett. That very real despair is here but also transformed into something else, by book’s end. The dialogue about Hitchcock’s MacGuffin is my single favorite thing Baxter has ever written.” —David Shields, author of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

"A strange and wonderful novel! It begins in comic realism, then becomes dream-like and spooky, mixing the mundane and the fantastic. Imagine an American Murakami, wildly inventive yet full of real emotions and recognizable human beings. This is Charles Baxter's best novel since The Feast of Love, with a subtle political bite that is original and timely." —Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters

"Tense, wry and ultimately touching . . . There is plenty of artful subtext in The Sun Collective, and a burning house or two . . .  But Baxter’s true gift is in describing the tender complexities of a relationship. Here, it’s the wistful, at times contentious, “post-love” of Harold and Alma, whose real problem might not be the times, but time, and their own senescence and mortality.” —The New York Times

"Baxter infuses his tale of class warfare in the social-media era with a hint of the supernatural." —The New Yorker

“Absorbing . . . beautifully rendered . . . Baxter seems content not knowing all the answers, or maybe believing that motivations are no easier to fully comprehend than instances of everyday magic. His gift is to tune us into the beauty and the strangeness that walks among us, right here in river city.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“With his latest novel, The Sun Collective Mr. Baxter continues to chip away at the myth of the Midwest’s innocence . . . Mr. Baxter points toward an inspiration for this duality by naming the Brettigans’ pets after characters from Mikhail Bulgakov’s hallucinatory classic “The Master and Margarita.” But the likeness that occurred to me is with Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, where the underlying chaos is both concealed and somehow deepened by the inviting, mannerly prose.”—Wall Street Journal

“Artfully subtle . . . An ekphrastic novel disguised as a teleological mystery . . . The Sun Collective challenges the reader as life itself does – at times postponing gratification, at other times brilliantly illuminating what is actual.”On the Seawall

“Like a skilled magician, Charles Baxter messes with reality just enough to transport the reader . . . Daring . . . There is an eerie sense of urgency to this novel . . . For those who enjoy thrillers, action and mystery with a healthy dose of political tension that incorporates dystopian and supernatural elements, The Sun Collective is a must-read. I highly recommend it.”—Booktrib

“Baxter’s portrayal of American society is always necessary—perhaps never more than now.” San Francisco Book Review

“Fans may be surprised at the dark tenor of his latest novel, but Baxter—poet, essayist, and National Book Award finalist for The Feast of Love—masterfully captures the zeitgeist of our country as we navigate multiple crises, some he could never have predicted. This is truly a compelling book for our times.”Library Journal (starred)

"Fiction virtuoso Baxter's artistry and merciless insights are in full, intoxicating flower in this sinuous, dark, and dramatic tale . . . He has brilliantly choreographed a wholly unnerving plunge into alarming aberrations private and public, festering political catastrophe, and woefully warped love."Booklist

"The prose throughout is graceful, the writing perceptive, resonant, and deeply sympathetic . . . An exceptional work." —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"Engrossing . . . A thoughtful study of anger, grief, and hope." Publishers Weekly

Books for Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Every May we celebrate the rich history and culture of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Browse a curated selection of fiction and nonfiction books by AANHPI creators that we think your students will love. Find our collections of titles here: Middle School High School

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PRH Education High School Collections

All reading communities should contain protected time for the sake of reading. Independent reading practices emphasize the process of making meaning through reading, not an end product. The school culture (teachers, administration, etc.) should affirm this daily practice time as inherently important instructional time for all readers. (NCTE, 2019)   The Penguin Random House High

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PRH Education Translanguaging Collections

Translanguaging is a communicative practice of bilinguals and multilinguals, that is, it is a practice whereby bilinguals and multilinguals use their entire linguistic repertoire to communicate and make meaning (García, 2009; García, Ibarra Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017)   It is through that lens that we have partnered with teacher educators and bilingual education experts, Drs.

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PRH Education Classroom Libraries

“Books are a students’ passport to entering and actively participating in a global society with the empathy, compassion, and knowledge it takes to become the problem solvers the world needs.” –Laura Robb   Research shows that reading and literacy directly impacts students’ academic success and personal growth. To help promote the importance of daily independent

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