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When 95 percent of the earth's population disappears for no apparent reason, Mira does what she can to create some semblance of a life: She cobbles together a haphazard community named Zion, scavenges the Piles for supplies they might need, and avoids loving anyone she can't afford to lose. She has everything under control. Almost.

Four years after the Rending, Mira's best friend, Lana, announces her pregnancy, the first since everything changed and a new source of hope for Mira. But when Lana gives birth to an inanimate object--and other women of Zion follow suit--the thin veil of normalcy Mira has thrown over her new life begins to fray. As the Zionites wrestle with the presence of these Babies, a confident outsider named Michael appears, proselytizing about the world beyond Zion. He lures Lana away and when she doesn't return, Mira must decide how much she's willing to let go in order to save her friend, her home, and her own fraught pregnancy.


The Rending and the Nest is packed with humor and horror and grace — an accomplished and mesmerizing debut. Kaethe Schwehn offers up a magical, unsettling vision of the future, and in doing so joins the company of such literary dazzlers as George Saunders and Margaret Atwood.
— Benjamin Percy, author of The Dark Net, The Dead Lands, Red Moon, and Thrill Me


Minnesota Book Award Winner

“It is not easy to write fluidly of earnestness. Nor is it simple to lend a real radiance to depictions of epiphanies…But thanks to her command of language and her well-placed use of imagery, Schwehn nudges the reader into the physical as well as contemplative experience…Wisely, she does not inflate the significance of her own quest. These elements endow this memoir with grace itself — and that is the achievement and appeal of this remarkably absorbing tale.”

— Rosemary Herbert, STAR TRIBUNE

“[Schwehn’s] deep diving into time and surfacing into the present reality helps readers appreciate what is essentially a coming-of-age story but with its own twists… Kaethe Schwehn has mined every vein of her younger self, and she has emerged as a writer of great promise.”

— Shirley Showalter, CHRISTIAN CENTURY



Tanka & Me

Tanka & Me is a visceral, pleading, and fierce collection of poems, underpinned with thudding vessels and satisfying wreckage. Kaethe Schwehn externalizes the overlooked power of women into a multidimensional character who hunts both the speaker and the reader. Our wild Tanka engages down deep with role-play, sex, prayer, and refusal until we can’t look away or stay quiet. These are love poems, but they love with claws and whiskey, bolt cutters and saws. You can love someone for a long time without knowing how, our speaker realizes, and Tanka prowls and preens and breaks us down until we know how to love ourselves, how to know ourselves, how to free ourselves. Tanka & Me is feminist poetry with muscle, bones, and heart.

“As with the best writing, I found myself simultaneously devastated and soothed, satiated and hungry for more.”

— Susanna Childress, author of Entering the House of Awe

“Meet Tanka, the girlish/ghoulish spirit at the heart of Kaethe Schwehn’s marvelous Tanka & Me. She’s ‘all ears and a liver,’ knows extraordinary things, has a boyfriend named Briar and poignant adventures in grief, but her penchant for detail, at once hilarious and harrowing, is all Kaethe Schwehn.”

— Leslie Adrienne Miller, author of Y