Vera Violet

Publication Date:

January 2020



Original language and publisher

English | Catapult

Territories Handled

World excl. English North America

Territories Sold

Italy (Jimenez)


Debut Novel, Literary Fiction

Vera Violet


Hopelessness dims this poignant tale of a young woman’s tumultuous, modern American life.  An intense, lyrical portrait of America’s vulnerable underbelly. — Kirkus Reviews

“A tragic love story and a gritty drama.” —Siobhan Jones, The New York Times Book Review

“Poetic in its description of how capitalist society fails the poor . . . The sense of place in the novel is palpable, the treatment of its characters empathetic and complex . . . Vera Violet is a compelling read from a potent new voice.” —Sarah Neilson, The Seattle Times

“The writing is lyrical and airy, the subject matter heavy and visceral. This is another quick read, and a rough one, demanding that the reader not look away from the realities of how capitalism fails rural America (and really, all of us).” Electric Literature, 1 of 15 New Books for Your Winter Mood

“Vera Violet possesses the kind of energy that only comes from experience . . . Raw and important.” —Bethanne Patrick, Literary Hub

Dark and explosive . . . The novel offers no easy solutions but rather delves into the psychology of poverty and the vicious cycles that come with trying to survive. There’s no preaching. Instead, Peterson brings life to a host of memorable characters whose struggles are seared into readers’ brains. Vera Violet announces the arrival of a new writer who is comfortable with her craft and knows how to relay a story in vivid and affecting detail. Vera Violet packs a powerful punch. — Scott Neuffer, Shelf Awareness

Early on in Melissa Anne Peterson’s Vera Violet, Vera says, ‘An ocean of writhing, living blood surged between us. It enveloped the parking lot. It discolored the moon . . . It was dangerous and confusing. But there was no choice.’ Gripped by Vera’s dark world, you may feel exactly the same thing, pulled in as these kids are themselves, swept along despite the danger, wanting only to feel alive. Like Niall Griffith’s Grits or Kelly + Victor, Vera Violet will leave you hoping against hope for these lost lives. – Pete Fromm, author of A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do

Vera Violet is raw, unflinching, and above all necessary. As the storyline spans the country and scoops up those both broken and beautiful, Peterson gives voice to the unheard and overlooked with an honesty few writers come close to achieving. This is writing that is lyrical in the way a caged animal is lyrical: fierce with a soleness of purpose, distilled, unadorned, and unapologetically alive. – Melissa Mylchreest, author of Waking the Bones

Vera Violet is, in a word, totally authentic… the language is jaw-droppingly lyrical and gritty at the same time… the characters completely un-romanticized, but genuinely loved by their creator. And while the elevator pitch is not going to knock anybody’s socks off: it’s about a group of marginalized youths from shelton, dealing with drug addiction, financial insecurity, etc, etc, I’m telling you, there’s something so visceral and stirring about the experience… — Jonathan Evison, author of Lawn Boy

Mel Peterson is the literary voice of the dispossessed Pacific Northwest youth that we’ve come to know so well through song. Vera Violet is a fantastic debut. —Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill
“Thematically Vera Violet isn’t a happy, or easy, read. But as literature it is beautiful, for all its grit and sorrow. Peterson snaps off sharp, rapid–fire sentences, then contrasts them with longer, poetic phrases that catch the reader’s breath. For those of us who have grown up on the fringes of the more celebrated aspects of this part of the country, of the so–called ‘American Dream,’ the characters and their circumstances are all too familiar. Peterson honors those experiences, even as she makes no effort to glorify them. What she does is humanize the experience in a way that only someone who has lived them can do.” —Chris LaTray, Missoulian

“Powerful . . . In the way incessant rainfall can be a mesmerizing and devastating force, Vera Violet is too.” —Barbara Lloyd McMichael, Coast Weekend

Vera Violet recounts the dark story of a rough group of teenagers growing up in a twisted rural logging town. There are no local jobs. There is no sense of safety. But there is a small group of loyal friends, a truck waiting with the engine running, a pair of boots covered in blood, and a hot 1911 with a pearl pistol grip…

We are introduced to this crew and the hardscrabble life that shaped them through the reminiscences of Vera Violet. When we first meet her Violet is driving her pickup through the Montana mountains in a vain attempt to outrun the violent episode that has recently torn apart the close knit group and thrown Violet’s life into further chaos: “The Montana sky opened up and gave me snow. Snow to numb my wounds. Snow to cover my footprints.”

Peterson’s lyrical prose and the novel’s scattershot narrative structure deftly echo the narrator’s confused efforts to detail the lives of her neighborhood friends, to honor the treasured memories of her troubled brother and to make sense of the novel’s climactic events.

And then there is the enigmatic Jimmy James, love of Vera’s life and the book’s unlikely moral center.

Melissa Peterson has been published by Camas Magazine, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, Oregon Quarterly, and Seal Press among others. Vera Violet is her first novel..

Marketing Information

  • One of CrimeReads’s Most Anticipated Books of the Year