Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Crooked Hallelujah

by Kelli Jo Ford

The remarkable debut from Plimpton Prize Winner Kelli Jo Ford, Crooked Hallelujah follows four generations of Cherokee women across four decades

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 320
  • Publication Date July 20, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4913-8
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date July 14, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4912-1
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date July 14, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4914-5
  • US List Price $26.00

It’s 1974 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and fifteen-year-old Justine grows up in a family of tough, complicated, and loyal women, presided over by her mother, Lula, and Granny. After Justine’s father abandoned the family, Lula became a devout member of the Holiness Church — a community that Justine at times finds stifling and terrifying. But Justine does her best as a devoted daughter, until an act of violence sends her on a different path forever.

Crooked Hallelujah tells the stories of Justine—a mixed-blood Cherokee woman—and her daughter, Reney, as they move from Eastern Oklahoma’s Indian Country in the hopes of starting a new, more stable life in Texas amid the oil bust of the 1980s. However, life in Texas isn’t easy, and Reney feels unmoored from her family in Indian Country. Against the vivid backdrop of the Red River, we see their struggle to survive in a world—of unreliable men and near-Biblical natural forces, like wildfires and tornados—intent on stripping away their connections to one another and their very ideas of home.

In lush and empathic prose, Kelli Jo Ford depicts what this family of proud, stubborn, Cherokee women sacrifice for those they love, amid larger forces of history, religion, class, and culture. This is a big-hearted and ambitious novel of the powerful bonds between mothers and daughters by an exquisite and rare new talent.

Tags Literary

Praise for Crooked Hallelujah:

A New York Times Editors’ Choice
“Top 10 New Books” by the New York Times
An Indies Introduce, Indie Next, and LibraryReads Pick
Named One of Time Magazine’s Must-Read Books of 2020
Named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2020 in fiction
Longlisted for the 2021 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
Longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s 2020 First Novel Prize

“In her more than promising first novel, Crooked Hallelujah, Kelli Jo Ford summons the details of minimum-wage life in the last quarter of the 20th century… This is a novel in stories, a dread form in the wrong hands… But Crooked Hallelujah has a supple cohesiveness… [Ford’s] book reads like a series of acoustic songs recorded on a single microphone in a bare room with a carpet. There are times when you might wish for more boldness, but she never puts a wrong foot. This is a writer who carefully husbands her resources. Small scenes begin to glitter.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times

“Stunning and lovable… Ford has drawn characters who are earthy, honest and believable in how they resolve or reconcile to difficulties — money, jobs, relationships with men. There are so many passages in this book that are moving.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Full of poetry… Ford’s prose is so absorbing that you’re right there… [Her] pages ache with tenderness and love and no small amount of frustration… These stories stand up beautifully to rereading; they made me excited for what the writer will do next.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Kelli Jo Ford takes her readers on a compelling journey through the evolving terrain of multiple generations of women… This language is rich but never dense. There’s a lightness to the perspective which shifts and bends, prismed by a matrilineal succession of Cherokee and mixed-race women… Ford’s connection to her characters shines through the writing, infusing these voices with a sweet, sidelong zing.”—Washington Post

“A book that you want to share with everyone you know and one that you are desperate to keep in your own possession. A masterful debut and a new and thrilling voice for readers across the globe.”—Sarah Jessica Parker, on Instagram

“Ford, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, offers a novel in short stories, allowing her to move with ease through perspectives, history and time. Each heartbreaking chapter slowly adds to the reader’s understanding of these women and their increasingly difficult lives.”—TIME

“Kelli Jo Ford has penned an extraordinary debut set in 1974 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma that is focused on mothers and daughters, the strength and sacrifices of women and the journey that growth requires.”—Ms. Magazine

“Strife between saints and sinners simmers in this richly drawn, atmospheric debut by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Justine, a mixed-blood teenager, rejects her evangelical upbringing for more earthly pleasures, risking biblical plagues to embark on a decades-long odyssey that will carry her and her daughter to the Texas oil fields. Ford unravels the stirring ties that bind Native American women across cultural and generational chasms.”—Oprah Magazine

“Engrossing and well-paced, this is a compelling story about women, mothers and daughters, the land, and family.”—Literary Hub, “13 of the Most Anticipated Books by Indigenous Authors For the Second Half of 2020”

“A magnificent #OwnVoices debut… Ford adroitly, affectingly weaves indigenous history into her spellbinding narrative, exposing displacement, unacknowledged violence, cultural erasure, relentless racism and socioeconomic disparity.”—Shelf Awareness

“Electrifying… A riveting and important read.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Ford’s storytelling is urgent, her characters achingly human and complex, and her language glittering and rugged. This is a stunner.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Ford’s Crooked Hallelujah is more than just a really great title; it’s the book that’s going to be taught in creative writing programs for decades to come… What else can you say about a writer who won the prestigious Plimpton Prize and was published in the Paris Review right out of the gate? Nothing beyond ‘Take my money.’”—Buzzfeed

“A tender and ambitious praise-song of a novel about a family’s fight for survival, love, and home.”—Kirkus Reviews

“At once critical and empathetic, Ford paints strikingly candid portraits of four generations of Cherokee women in all their human complexity, rather than reducing them to figures in a political allegory. The result is a book that is — to borrow Ford’s own deceptively poetic turn of phrase — ‘One hell of a testimony.’”—High Country News

“Kelli Jo Ford’s first book, composed of interlocking stories set in Oklahoma and North Texas, is like a wildfire that slowly approaches a home and then whips through an entire region… Ford’s voice rises above the tumult.” —BookPage

“[A] masterpiece… Even through its harsh circumstances and looming disappointments, Crooked Hallelujah maintains a sense of hope, centering the women as sources of light in the tiny communities where they land. Its closing scenes are overt in their biblical tie-ins, but also so consistent with what precedes them that they force rear-gazing considerations: was the divine present in every event of the women’s lives after all? Or was it their fierce, life-giving love for one another that most warranted emulation and awe? …Its events like psalms for mother-daughter bonds, Kelli Jo Ford’s novel celebrates bold, everyday acts of enduring love.”—Foreword Reviews

“Kelli Jo Ford’s Crooked Hallelujah masterfully evokes loss and displacement, steeped in Native American culture, rife with compassion and deep understanding. Kelli Jo Ford is a powerful new Native American writer who writes beautifully with stunning prose! She is brilliant, and I can’t wait for people to read her amazing book.”—Brandon Hobson, 2018 National Book Award Finalist and author of Where the Dead Sit Talking

Crooked Hallelujah is an intricate, soulful look at three generations of Cherokee women pushed (in Philip Larkin’s phrase) to the side of their own lives. At turns gripping and moving, Kelli Jo Ford’s characters and the Oklahoma and Texas landscape take center stage in a truly modern drama. Ford sidesteps the easy tropes of spirituality and connection to nature and has created a modern masterpiece peopled with complex, fully-realized characters. A huge achievement.”—David Treuer

“Startling close-ups of the sticky relationship between mothers and daughters, between body and nature, between childhood certainties and adult skepticism. Kelli Jo Ford’s writing is heartfelt and brimming with talent. This is a stunning, awe-inspiring debut.”—Leila Aboulela

Praise for Kelli Jo Ford:

“Kelli Jo Ford’s writing is a high priority and will only gain in the world’s esteem… [her work] contains beauty and unexpected new intelligence.”—Richard Ford on Kelli Jo Ford’s “Hybrid Vigor,” winner of the 2019 Plimpton Prize