Sister Golden Calf
by Colleen Burner
publication date: September 19, 2023
Gloria and her sister Kit are in the trade of rehoming invisible ephemera they've captured in jars and now sell on the side of the road (can they interest you in SOMEONE ELSE'S DREAMS, NIGHT GREASE, or WHAT IS LEFT AFTER A STAR EXPLODES?). Motherless and rudderless, the sisters are on a road trip in their '93 Honda Accord across the sunburnt landscape of New Mexico. Restless with grief and doubt, Gloria becomes obsessed with a taxidermied eight-legged calf she meets in a roadside museum, and Kit takes a skeptical pilgrimage to a supposedly holy hole in the dirt floor of a church. The two cross paths with an array of characters, creatures, and places—The Calamity Janes, a roving motorcycle gang; an eyeless horse who reminds Gloria that she can see the unseen; and a ghost town where mysteries abound—in this sprawling and emotionally driven novella where the road is never-ending and sisterhood can be home.
Praise for Sister Golden Calf:
"In shiveringly beautiful prose, Colleen Burner maps a wild voyage into grief, love, and radical forms of kinship. Their novel unstitches the fixed seams of self and stranger, inviting us to touch the peculiar, precise commotions that link one creature to another. A truly extraordinary book."
—Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks
"Sister Golden Calf is my favorite kind of novel: compact and meditative, delightfully strange, elegiac but awash in warm light and the promise of ineffable treasure in each sentence. Amid the variegated desert landscape and seductive kismet of the open road, the sisters face questions of longing and belonging, of how to care for each other and themselves, and of what artifacts to carry as they carry on. Colleen Burner has stolen my heart with this novel."
—Alexis Smith, author of Marrow Island and Glaciers
"I was blown away by Sister Golden Calf, a wise and brutally intimate exploration of sisterhood and grief and the bonds that tie us to each other. Magical and hypnotic, poetic and fierce, every line contains a universe, and nothing is spared. Gloria and Kit will stay with me for a long time. Colleen Burner is an unmistakable talent."
—Chelsea Bieker, author of Godshot and Heartbroke
"In Colleen Burner's stunning debut novella, Sister Golden Calf, a pair of sisters roam the New Mexico deserts with their beloved mother's cremains, their only plan: 'burying bits of her ash and smudging her all over her home state.' These are young women sensitive to the faintest traces of grace and beauty in the world; Burner recreates the usual buddy-buddy road trip as an intensely female narrative of longing and landscape, both metaphysical and sensual, in a gorgeous prose that puts the ineffable into wise words and brings the invisible into illuminating view."
—Tara Ison, author of At the Hour Between Dog and Wolf
"'When a man steps onto the road, his journey begins. When a woman steps onto that same road, hers ends,' said Vanessa Veselka, in her examination of the absence of female road narratives. Colleen Burner's Sister Golden Calf imagines an otherwise. How would a story move—at what speed, at what gait—and what shape would it take, what mood would it assume, if it followed, not Quixote or Kerouac, but two misfit sisters on the road? Upon the cracked highways of New Mexico, yes, but also the road of grief, of what it means to drive into one's heartbreak and yet keep on living. Sister Golden Calf travels the mysteries of what can't be captured in language and invites us, the hitchhiking reader, with a warm hand and open door, along for the ride."
—David Naimon, host of Between the Covers podcast
Colleen Burner (they/them) is
a graduate of the MFA writing program at Portland State University and an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship recipient.
Their short fiction has appeared in Fecund, Old Pal, Black Candies: Gross and Unlikeable, Permafrost, and Quaint. They are a coeditor of surely magazine. They live in Portland, Oregon. Sister Golden Calf is their first book.