Arroyo Circle

A Novel of Reclamation in a Time of Loss

ARROYO CIRCLE starts with wildfires, filling Boulder, Colorado with smoke, as Shelley, a white, middle-aged handmaiden to a hoarder is violently confronted by police who believe she put a baby in the trunk of her car. In reality, it was a tub of kitty litter for the hoarder’s cat, which distracts them all from a real tragedy. Shelley, indignant about being wrongfully accused, winds up in the legal system, and in her absence the hoarder’s house and occupants burn to the ground. Unemployable, Shelley rents out her home on Airbnb to survive. On rental days, she crashes on friends’ sofas, then, as the pandemic lock-down begins, she is forced to sleep in an unheated garage. Les, an alcoholic, shape-shifting scientist, lives in the creek bed behind her house and helps her navigate this new world, even as Covid sweeps through town. With a strange mix of quantum physics, Buddhism, and Tito’s, Les teaches her about the healing powers of nature and the deeper meanings of home. Into their midst comes a dazed walker who is more closely connected to Shelley than she can imagine. When the warm Chinook winds blow through the mountains and melt the heavy snows, everyone, including the police, has one last shot at redemption.

“An ambitious and fast-paced story of wildfire and pandemic and flood told through the eyes of characters living on the margins of our communities and the natural world. Entertaining, sobering, and thought-provoking, ARROYO CIRCLE grabbed me from the first pages. I loved it.”

-Ellen Meeropol, author of THE LOST WOMEN OF AZALEA COURT


“Wildfire, flash flood, hoarding, and pandemic come home to roost in Boulder, Colorado. The climate crisis is not a calamity that happens far away or in a distant future. No. Right here and right now it’s time to face the music, and feel the emotional and psychological costs of what we have wrought. This is no sweet song, though small kindnesses, last-ditch efforts at hope, and the gift of an unlikely friendship sing memorably in this powerful novel.”



“JoeAnn Hart has achieved the impossible: a beautifully written, page-turner of a novel about the climate crisis. ARROYO CIRCLE and its richly drawn characters is urgent, impassioned and revelatory. If the world around us is burning, Hart is the poet/naturalist who will guide us through the flames.”

– Laura Harrington, author of A CATALOG OF BIRDS


“Against the backdrop of Colorado’s smoke-filled summer skies, JoeAnn Hart brings together an unforgettable cast of characters, drawn together by loss and by living on the edges of a society ravaged by climate change and Covid. Yet in a world where lives change in an instant, what prevails in this remarkable and inventive novel is compassion, hope, and the wonders of nature. At once haunting and witty, vivid and ethereal, ARROYO CIRCLE is a beautifully written ode to our changing world.”

—Midge Raymond, author of FLOREANA and MY LAST CONTINENT