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Joshua Senter
Still The Night Call
STILL THE NIGHT CALL is about Calem Dewayne Honeycutt, a thirty-two-year-old Missouri dairy farmer of few words. But just because he’s quiet doesn't mean he’s simple. In fact, Calem’s internal voice eloquently leads us through his wondrous yet tortured past, his fears for the future of his beleaguered rural world, and his carefully laid plans to remedy the vicious Night Call that haunts his present. All he has to do is get through one last day on the farm, then he can free himself of being a straight, white, middle-aged man with nothing in his possession but a gun and a prayer. Through the eyes of Calem, STILL THE NIGHT CALL delves into the quickly diminishing world of Midwestern farmers whose livelihoods have become fodder for politicians and trade wars while their traditional values have become the subject of scorn and culture wars. The result is a struggling working class whose worth has been reduced to mirthless caricatures and economic dust, and who are desperately looking for hope anywhere they might find it.
In this philosophical man-against-society drama from Senter (Daisies), thirty-two-year-old Missouri dairy farmer Calem Honeycutt plans his suicide for nightfall. In under twenty-four hours, the impoverished Calem futilely attempts to tie up his life’s loose ends: assisting his bitter and aging parents, pleading with a callous banker, fishing one last time with his lonely best friend, and more. Meanwhile, Calem vents his frustrations on every imaginable current American controversy, targeting his supercilious sister Caitlyn and her liberal culture. “Everyone is telling me I gotta look out for everybody that ain’t a white, straight, gun-toting, undereducated man, but who’s looking out for me?” is Calem’s insistent refrain as he nears his chosen time of demise.

Without narrative context at the start, the rambling introduction, describing night depression, obscures the otherwise fluid, suspense-infused writing to come, as Still the Night Call offers poetic moments and thought-provoking scenes. Though impressively honest and perhaps realistic, Calem’s rampant bigotry—using “colored” to describe Black people, a vulgar insult to Africa, among many other examples—and his ranting, hyperbolic monologues against city dwellers and liberals quickly become redundant and will limit the novel’s audience. Those who share Calem’s sense of disenfranchisement, however, will value the affirmations and identify with his tragic persona. The character’s candor, affection for his family and country, and his contentment with a simple life make him understandable, if not likeable, despite his forlorn outlook.

Senter, an accomplished screenwriter, expertly balances the wrongs Calem has endured with an authentic regional voice that conveys his blend of nostalgia and raw anger. Chapters named for the hours passing before his presumed death heighten tension, and the broader theme about farmers nearing extinction awakens alarm whether you like the guy or not. Senter’s deft storytelling leads to an unexpected and fresh conclusion. Insightful and thought-provoking, Calem’s troubles will buoy those who agree with his grievances and political views—and inspire concern in those who don’t.

Takeaway: A pained, insightful, ranting drama about a farmer facing the end of his way of life.

Great for fans of: Daniel Woodrell’s The Death of Sweet Mister, Charles D. Thompson Jr’s Going Over Home: A Search for Rural Justice in an Unsettled Land, Paula vW. Dáil’s Hard Living in America’s Heartland.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A

KIRKUS REVIEWS (starred review)

A young Missouri man on a failing dairy farm contemplates what he feels will be the last day of his life in this novel.

At the age of 32, Calem Honeycutt is already a homeowner, but he didn’t move far from his parents. They are a mile away at their dairy farm in the Ozarks where Calem still works. He didn’t feel like going to college or getting what some call a real job, as he is too tied to the life and landscape of his upbringing. (“There are two cricks that run through our land, three ponds, and a waterfall that will leave a hell of an impression if you’re ever lucky enough to see it.”) His parents are reliable and supportive, if somewhat stoic, though his sister, Caitlyn, whom he genuinely likes, is now an urban progressive liberal who is outraged by her family’s conservative opinions. Calem hunts, fishes, and sees friends, but he is single and deals with despair. He has convinced himself this will be the last day he will ever live. He plows through the day, racked by memories of old times and fascinated by new views of familiar landscapes. Some fun is on the horizon, since he is going fishing with his friend Miles that evening. Even so, bad news comes in about the dairy farm, pushing Calem and his family toward new, possibly insurmountable anxieties. Senter’s impressive novel is a truthful, honestly told story that puts a human face on a region that’s steeped in tradition, brimming with the allure of nature, and grappling with the constant threat of being swallowed up by the latest corporate entity. Calem’s world is intricately described as a land of four-wheelers, black walnuts, hog suckers, and Holsteins, and it’s a place that offers seemingly endless freedom but brutal government and marketplace restrictions. The author’s careful plotting, over the course of one remarkably intense day, defies expectations as it moves toward its haunting conclusion.

A candid tale that triumphantly understands the Midwestern psyche, delivering moments of beauty and tragedy.


Still The Night Call is a novel written by Joshua Senter, whose main character Calem Honeycutt tells the story of his experience growing up and living on a dairy farm in rural Missouri, USA. Calem and his family run one of the last dairy farms standing in the Missouri countryside and their way of life, although seemingly simple to the outsider, becomes endangered by the political and social issues in contemporary America. When their livelihood suddenly becomes a part of the harsh reality of the world they live in, Calem's purpose in life is blurred, and he makes one of the toughest decisions in life to end his suffering. 

Still The Night Call is a well-written novel with a contemporary voice echoing the attitudes and troubles of country people, caused by the relentless reality of the dark fate of the farm industry, due to the changes in the country's politics and economy. Author Joshua Senter creates a balance between the subjective point of view of the middle-aged white farmer and the objective view on contemporary politics and economical issues, describing in his own crisp and straightforward style the effect these events have on farm life in America. The bitter reality of our contemporary world comes forth through the equally dark atmosphere that Senter creates while writing. He raises current issues just enough to make the reader wonder, examining them according to one's own perception and point of view. Still The Night Call is an interesting read that questions the political and social problems from a writer's point of view, offering hope for change at its impactful ending.

THE US REVIEW OF BOOKS (recommended)

"You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? You’ve lain twisted in your sheets, choking for air, arguing with the Night Call, begging it to get of your chest and out of your ear, to let you sleep."

In this chilling novel, readers follow Calem Dewayne Honeycutt, a young dairy farmer staring down his last day on his family's southern Missouri farm. As Calem's reflections document his family's hardships, his secrets unravel, and readers realize that he is more than the simple farm kid that most people think he is. Often alone with only his work for company, Calem begins thinking, challenging what he's been taught and what he knows, acknowledging the blurry lines between one's reality and their own fiction. Moreover, he begins questioning the system in which he's been raised, the ethics and moralities society imposes on him. As the last day's countdown winds onward around the clock, readers themselves begin to wonder just what the Night Call truly is and from where it actually hails. 

This book's power lies in its relevance and its authenticity. It is written in the first-person point of view and features a Midwestern accent, which shapes Calem's character. More importantly, particularly through the character of Calem's father, the book addresses the financial hardships and lack of respect and support farmers all across the globe face as they work to feed the world's population. Calem's father addresses the urban versus rural conflict permeating modern society when he states, "'Some yahoo is gonna move in there, clean cut all them old trees, and use 'em for firewood.'" At times, the dialogue and Calem's reflections bear a supernatural feel, one that leaves readers thinking of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village as the protagonist reflects, "Sometimes, I feel like we'll be eat up by everything happening just beyond the treeline." Powerful and poignant, this book is sure to keep readers engaged from beginning to end, and it will challenge them to think about the Night Call creeping into their own lives. 

RECOMMENDED by the US Review