Nyle's life with her grandmother on their Vermont sheep farm advances rhythmically through the seasons until the night of the accident at the Cookshire nuclear power plant. Without warning, Nyle's modest world fills with protective masks, evacuations, contaminated food, disruptions, and mistrust.
Nyle adjusts to the changes. As long as the fallout continues blowing to the East, Nyle, Gran, and the farm can go on. But into this uncertain haven stumble Ezra Trent and his mother, "refugees" from the heart of the accident, who take temporary shelter in the back bedroom of Nyle's house.
The back bedroom is the dying room: It took her mother when Nyle was six; it stole away her grandfather just two years ago. Now Ezra is back there and Nyle doesn't want to open her heart to him. Too many times she's let people in, only to have them desert her.
Karen Hesse's voice and vision are grounded in truth; she takes on a nearly unharnessable subject, contains it, and makes it resonate with honesty. Part love story, part coming of age, Phoenix Rising is a tour de force by a gifted writer.