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Dixon, Descending: A Novel (Hardcover)

Dixon, Descending: A Novel By Karen Outen Cover Image
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A powerful, heart-wrenching debut novel about ambition, survival, and our responsibility toward one another

Dixon was once an Olympic-level runner. But he missed the team by two-tenths of a second, and ever since that pain decades ago, he hasn’t allowed a goal to consume him. But when his charming older brother, Nate, suggests that they attempt to be the first Black American men to summit Mount Everest, Dixon can’t refuse. The brothers are determined to prove something—to themselves and to each other.
Dixon interrupts his orderly life as a school psychologist, leaving behind disapproving friends, family, and one particularly fragile student, Marcus. Once on the mountain, they are met with extreme weather conditions, oxygen deprivation, and precarious terrain. But as much as they’ve prepared for this, Mt. Everest is always fickle. And in one devastating moment, Dixon’s world is upended. 

Dixon returns home and attempts to resume his job, but things have shifted: for him and for the students he left behind when he chose Mt. Everest. Ultimately, Dixon must confront the truth of what happened on the mountain and come to terms with who can and cannot be saved. DIXON, DESCENDING offers us a captivating, shattering portrait of the ways we’re reshaped by our decisions—and what it takes to angle ourselves, once again, toward hope.

About the Author

Karen Outen’s fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, The North American Review, Essence, and elsewhere. She is a 2018 recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award and has been a fellow at both the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan and the Pew Fellowships in the Arts. She received an MFA from the University of Michigan. She lives in Maryland.

Praise For…

A Library Journal Editors' Pick 

Featured in Lit Hub's "24 New Books Out Today"

Dixon Descending is well-researched. The reader is dropped into the world of ice axes and crampons, pee bottles and carabiners, feeling every lick of wind on the mountain. But the novel uses the climb itself as a framing device to explore not just what drives people to do such things, but also what the consequences are of surviving when others don’t. Outen clearly loves her characters deeply, and writes Nate and Dixon’s compelling story with love.” Boston Globe

“Outen’s detailed accounts of climbing Everest are so engrossing, and her depiction of grief and the many different forms it takes and the burdens it creates are compelling and insightful. This is a story I will not soon forget.” Buzz Magazine

"Dixon’s story compels readers to consider the price of ambition and what it means to face our own mortality." Chapter 16

Dixon, Descending, with its poignant passages, is ultimately a heart-wrenching story of great loss." The Christian Science Monitor

“Outen shines in her debut…credibly portrays the uncanny sensations of Dixon’s emotional and physical recovery. This one hits hard.”Publishers Weekly

“The author’s handling of the novel’s themes of simmering resentment, crushing failure, and precarious redemption is skillful and absorbing, and she generates real suspense in the unfolding of the book’s mysteries…A haunting story of ambition, guilt, and personal salvation.” —Kirkus

“That Outen can rather seamlessly meld these two fraught strands of story is a marker of her flowering skill as a writer. An additional gift of the novel is how much it has to reveal about love and friendship among Black men. That alone makes Dixon, Descending a worthy read." BookPage

"Outen's descriptions of mountaineering are rich and real... The harrowing suspense of their climb and descent is intense and gripping." —Booklist

“Outen’s first novel presents a solid story of how family dynamics impact an individual life…the vivid imagery of Nepal, the harrowing circumstances, and the stunning landscapes provide a counterpoint to the characters’ lives back home. VERDICT: For fans of novels about climbing expeditions, such as Tanis Rideout’s Above All Things, or the popular nonfiction account Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.”Library Journal

“A beautiful and haunting story about brotherly love, remorse, hubris, nature’s unique cruelty, and survival. Karen Outen understands first-class human drama. She grabs hold of your neck and doesn’t let go. Here is tragedy in the purest sense.”—Gabriel Bump, author of Everywhere You Don’t Belong

“Karen Outen’s Dixon Descending is a quiet, sometimes violent, incredibly moving, novel by writer who knows how it’s done. The brutal honesty, arresting prose, love, hate, compassion, strength, and weakness are exactly what writing should be. Outen has blessed us with a brilliant character study and a powerful, important read.”—LaToya Watkins, author of Perish and Holler, Child

“Outen's portrayal of the perils and passions of climbing is terrifically (and terrifyingly) vivid, but it's her feel for character that's truly outstanding. A sharp, sympathetic observer of family and community, she conjures her central figure—in all his aching, aging humanity—with surpassing wisdom and grace. This is a novel of huge heart; less a story of survival, than a story of how we survive survival.”—Peter Ho Davies, award-winning author of The Welsh Girl, The Fortunes, and others

“Dixon, Descending reaches the heights with the story of brothers Nate and Dixon, who choose an adventure that ends in disaster and breaks your heart with the aftermath for one of them. With her powerful tale of two Black men going where Black men rarely go, Outen asks the reader to leave their assumptions down at base camp and climb with her. This book will hurt you, move you and make you glad you joined the journey.”—Martha Southgate, author of The Fall of Rome, Third Girl From the Left, and The Taste of Salt

“Dixon, Descending is the most engulfing, transporting, deeply humane novel I’ve read in ten years. Outen gives us everything a reader could want: characters to worry about, a plot with depth and heart, exquisite suspense, and writing so gorgeous you have to mark every page. The Bryant brothers will live with me forever.” Monica Wood, author of The One-in-a-Million Boy, When We Were the Kennedys, and others

“Karen Outen’s gifts as a writer are many, but her triumph in Dixon, Descending is the vividness of its characters.  They live, breathe, speak, and love as real people.  Their anguish and their victories will stay forever with Outen’s readers.  This is a gorgeous and important story.” —Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Shadow Land
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593473450
ISBN-10: 0593473450
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: February 6th, 2024
Pages: 336
Language: English
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