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Dixon, Descending

A novel by

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.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

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