St. Olaf English professor debuts new post-apocalyptic novel

On Feb. 22, my roommate and I braved the snowy roads and made the trek down the hill to Imminent Brewing. That night the brewery (better known to some St. Olaf Students as the business that beloved former Bon App board supervisor Randy Clay left us for) and Content Book Store worked in collaboration to host a book release celebration for St. Olaf English professor Kaethe Schwehn’s latest work, “The Rending and the Nest.”

Towards the beginning of the evening, as one might expect of a book event, Schwehn read an excerpt from her new book, which was published by Bloomsbury USA.

The novel follows Mira, a young woman trying to make a living in a post-apocalyptic dystopia where 95 percent of the world’s population has mysteriously vanished. Zion, the community she has managed to find, is shook even further when women begin giving birth to inanimate objects and a stranger comes spreading stories about the world outside Zion. When the stranger lures one of Mira’s friends away, Mira has to decide how much she is willing to risk in order to save her friend and her community.

Although she has published a memoir and collection of poems and had numerous other works appear in literary journals, “The Rending and the Nest” is Schwehn’s first published novel – although she told me over email she has another unpublished one “languishing in a drawer somewhere.” It was great to see so many people come out to support her in this achievement.

“When we got there, it was pretty crowded, but despite that there was still a welcoming, open atmosphere” said Stellan Quale ’19.

The venue was standing room only, with students, professors and other members of the community mingling over beers brewed in-house and food from Russell’s Traveling Kitchen, a food truck parked outside for the event.

After the reading, the room was treated to a performance by the Queen Annes, a local band with an indie rock sound that felt right at home in the brewery locale. The band, brought together by “fate and mutual friends” according to the Imminent Brewing website, is made up of guitarist Matt Bowers, drummer Marty Johnson, vocalist Ken Pierce and multi-talented St. Olaf music professor Louis Epstein who, over the course of the night, switched between many instruments including rhythm guitar, keyboard and saxophone.

As we left the party later that night, Schwehn was deep in conversation with one of her well-wishers and had several more hoovering nearby, waiting for their turn.

This is the beginning of a busy couple of weeks for her of readings and signings to promote “The Rending and the Nest” as far away as Tampa, Florida and Brooklyn, New York, but she hasn’t taken a break from writing completely.

“I’m in the beginning stages of an historical novel set in 4BCE,” Schwehn wrote over email.

“The Rending and the Nest” is now available everywhere books are sold. You can find out more about Kaethe Schwehn and her works at

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