Year of the Buffalo
Ernie and his brother, Scott, have never seen eye-to-eye—literally or figuratively. Scott’s a mountain of a man; Ernie’s a meek computer analyst with a shambles of a marriage, who never, ever answers the phone when his brother calls.
That all changes when Scott is introduced as the face of Go West!, a video game featuring his old wrestling persona, Mr. Bison. Now among the nouveau riche, Scott invites Ernie to come live with him and his pregnant wife, Holly, a teacher and aspiring diarist, on their new farm—complete with a living, breathing buffalo, Billy.
When the video-game producers call on Scott to help sell Go West!, Holly orchestrates an American road trip that sends the brothers eastward and into the less-traveled depths of their hearts and memories. What ensues is an episodic tale that examines themes of grief, sibling rivalry, ambition, and the repercussions of toxic masculinity as it follows the Isaacson brothers’ fumbling attempts to reestablish their childhood relationship—or what they wish that relationship had been.
In perfect tune with the complexities of modern communication and with a wry sense of humor, Aaron Burch’s epic debut novel, Year of the Buffalo, explores our stories—the ones we tell ourselves, the ones we tell each other, and the ones we might never tell at all.
“Year of the Buffalo is a brilliant testimony to how good Aaron Burch is, a perfect realization of what makes his writing so special. It manages that balance of tenderness and violence, finding beauty in the most unexpected places. At the heart of the novel, Burch looks closely at the nature of time, the way it pulls us backwards, then strands us in a present that we can’t quite understand, and then makes us a little afraid to imagine what kind of future awaits. But Burch knows how to control time, to make it tell the kind of story that matters, and this is a novel that, no lie, makes you want to be alive.” — Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here
“From his nonchalantly spectacular premise (involving estranged brothers, grief, professional wrestling, a video game, and a buffalo!), Aaron Burch launches a poignant, past-haunted journey novel that takes the Isaacson boys both farther from and closer to an idea of home. On the road, punches are thrown and taken, masks are ditched and donned, and stories are swapped and stitched together. This is a novel of substance by a large-hearted writer, and it’s an auspicious start for American Buffalo Books.” — Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special
“In Year of the Buffalo, Aaron Burch brings his considerable talents to bear in subtle and heart-stringing scenes that tell the kind of story that lingers long after last call, of the catch and release of late-night nostalgia and the love and distance between brothers.” — Amelia Gray, author of Gutshot
“Two brothers in a too-fancy rented SUV, driving towards Michigan and away from, what? Their past? Their avatars and alter egos? Their pet bison? All of the above? Year of the Buffalo by Aaron Burch is a poignant, searching tale of brotherhood and the personas we employ, both within the ring and without. It’s a book about memory and the past refreshingly devoid of easy nostalgia. It’s a book for anyone who’d pick Talking Heads as their walk-up song. It’s a book you should read.” — Danny Caine, author of How to Resist Amazon and Why
“Year of the Buffalo excavates the complexity of sibling relationships among grown-up people with such a light hand— depths are probed, but told with an inviting immediacy; I felt myself leaning gladly into all these characters as they unpeeled and revealed on their roadtrip, metaphorical and real.” — Aimee Bender, author of The Butterfly Lampshade
Aaron Burch grew up in Tacoma, WA. He is the author of the memoir/literary analysis Stephen King’s The Body; a short story collection, Backswing; and a novella, How to Predict the Weather. He is the founding editor of Hobart and, more recently, its offshoot journals, HAD and WAS. He lives in Ann Arbor, MI. This is his first novel.
About American Buffalo Books
American Buffalo Books is a non-profit press affiliated with the English Department at Kansas State University, founded by Daniel A. Hoyt in 2021 to give K-State students hands-on publishing experience. Students edit and promote our books, they select the annual Buffalo Books Fiction Prize, and they take part in all press endeavors. (Tucker Newsome — a current M.A. student — took the above photo, and Zoe Abner, a Kansas State art student at the time, designed the cover of Year of the Buffalo.) We publish novels that explore the Midwest, the Plains, and so-called “flyover” portions of the West. We open for submissions just once a year, usually for the month of February, and we publish one book per year (the winner of our book prize). Our forthcoming books are Unequal Temperament (2023) by Cheryl Walsh and Szarotka (2024) by Adam Galanksi.
Contact: BuffaloBooks (at) ksu.edu or DanHoyt (at) ksu.edu