Let the Dark Flower Blossom

A novel by Norah Labiner

April 30, 2013 • 5.5 x 8.25 • 384 pages • 978-1-56689-320-6

An existential murder mystery about two rival writers willing to do anything——lie, steal, kill——to get the perfect story.

Sheldon and Eloise Schell are twins, orphans, and the estranged college companions of the rich, scandalous, celebrated Roman Stone. Now Roman is dead, stabbed in the heart, and Eloise and Sheldon must separately tease out their secret past—a burning house, a murdered girl—that is the one story they could never tell.

Moving between the muffled plush of wintry Chicago, the fog-bound darkness of a Lake Superior island, and the even darker precincts of memory, Let the Dark Flower Blossom is a book about the pull of the closed door. It is about the small pleasure of being right, the tremendous thrill of doing wrong, and the lengths writers will go—lie, steal, kill—to get the perfect story.

About the Author

Norah Labiner is the author of three previous novels: Our Sometime Sister, Miniatures, and German for Travelers. She has received a Minnesota Book Award for Literary Fiction, as well as fellowships from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has been recognized by the American Library Association, the Jewish Book Council, and the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers series. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


“As rewarding as it is challenging, this book is a great alternative to a beach read for those who love literary mysteries. . . . Recommended for those who thought that even Gone Girl didn't have enough troubled characters and unforeseen twists.” Library Journal

“A puzzle of a book, [Let the Dark Flower Blossom] engages one’s attention through staccato prose and a number of interrelated and compelling characters. This ‘existential murder mystery’ . . . will reward attentive readers.” Booklist

“A dark and truly original work of extraordinary strangeness and beauty.” —Emily St. John Mandel

“The joy of Let The Dark Flower Blossom is going on this complicated journey—speculating on the monstrosity of novels with their great narratives of escape, their vastness, their horrors and tragedies—to come to discover what a ‘perfect’ story is for you. With a wicked sense of humor, a compelling narrative, beautiful lyrical language, and strong characters, Labiner does not disappoint.” Arcadia Magazine

Let the Dark Flower Blossom thrills in all the right ways: it’s moody, suspenseful, and intellectually exciting. The story defies all expectations and comes replete with the chilly darkness of characters mining what’s long been buried. Norah Labiner is an ambitious artist and this may be the most satisfying novel I’ve read all year.” —Dean Bakopoulos

“Dark and intriguing.” —Kirkus

“A splendid, leisurely meditation on the meaning of fame, identity, and love.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Labiner, narrating in several distinct and haunting voices, proves herself a metafictional adept. She succeeds in crafting an ambitious, poignant and sharp-tongued novel filled with secrets and ghosts, jealousy and love.” Publishers Weekly

“Norah Labiner’s Let the Dark Flower Blossom (Coffee House Press) is a definitely a novel for writers and avid readers. It is one of those intellectually written novels that doesn’t just tell a story in a smart and unique way, it examines the story and all of the aspects that make a story, the elements that a story needs to succeed in a readers mind.” Busking at the Seams

“The complex characters, the oppressive sense of fate, the vivid winter landscape, and, most of all, the challenging questions about the nature of storytelling lingered long after I finished Let the Dark Flower Blossom. . . . A tale to be read curled up, surrounded by your own papers and the stories they hold, as the snow falls in the background.” Minerva Rising

“Labiner, with a firm control over events . . . and a fine way with language, presents us with an intellectual murder mystery that seeks to determine how writers’ foibles and eccentricities can be dangerous to themselves and, often, to others.” Quarterly Conversation

Let the Dark Flower Blossom is wholly original and brilliantly imaginative. . . . The author has created a living narrative, one that almost seems to grow, change, and breathe right before our eyes. It is almost as if Labiner’s story has a mind of its own. You’ll never read a book the same way again.” Gently Read Literature

“I was driven forward by the mystery’s peculiar unravelings and . . . by the haunting beauty of Labiner’s writing. The way Let the Dark Flower Blossom encourages reflection on the malleability of memories, and on the stories we make from them, was, for me, one of the great pleasures of the book.” Small Press Picks

Let the Dark Flower Blossom will subsume you. It’s a protean universe—lush with scandal, violence, and perverse glamour—where everything and nothing is true. . . . As readers we are implicated. As readers we bear guilt. On the rare occasion of novels such as this, our passivity is revoked and we are restored, if monstrously, to power.” KGB Bar Lit Magazine

Let the Dark Flower Blossom, in addition to being an elegant and sometimes jarring exploration of the malevolent and destructive power that stories can wield, is for most of its duration a page-turning murder mystery.” Star Tribune

“This is a first-rate, highly literate murder mystery, one that proves even more rewarding . . . on a second read.” Minnesota Magazine

“This is a literary thriller about the process of writing, and, like that process, it consists of many good ideas, and some puzzling ones. . . . Labiner rewards, not mocks, the reader’s investment in the plot and characters.” Electric Literature

“A ‘literary ambush’—perfect for a stormy summer night.” Minnesota Monthly

“Labiner’s tale first draws a set of compelling characters, and then connects them. . . . Even better, the reader gets to unravel a series of dark secrets and try to solve a murder, or two.” MinnPost

Let The Dark Flower Blossom [is] Norah Labiner’s densely layered, self-reflexive novel that is about much more than just a brother and sister. . . . Labiner demands a lot of her reader, challenges you to reassess your sense of self and to revisit your most important stories, asking the whole time: is this memory true? Does it matter?” Philadelphia Review of Books

“Beautifully worded and stylistically arranged, Let the Dark Flower Blossom is an innovative and candid take on the world of writers, relationships, and human nature itself.” The Corresponder

“Labiner’s writing has a perseverative quality, like an incantation. . . . Story and memory become characters in their own right, malleable and unreliable. The novel is either a map or a maze that leads into a fractured gothic tale of guilt, crime, and the distortions of reality and memory.” NewPages

“It’s like a swirling maelstrom of words that will eat your evening, and you will LOVE IT for doing so.” —Insatiable Booksluts

“Gothic noir, Greek classics, post-modern disjunction, add a pinch of snails and puppy dog’s tails and you have the page turning quality of a who-done-it.” —Drunken Boat