top of page

Kurt Johnson


Barrens Cover.jpg

2023 Minnesota Book Award Winner
2023 Goldie Winner Debut Novel and General Fiction


Praise for The Barrens

"A deeply compelling tale, told in vivid, elegant but concise prose, The Barrens carried me along, swiftly as the river at the heart of the story. The central character, Lee, will break your heart, although she'll have none of it. Love, loss, life and death, against a landscape as raw and ancient as the human heart. Most highly recommended.”

"The Barrens grabbed me from the opening pages and never let go, a riveting adventure story written by a father-daughter team who clearly have wilderness chops."

Michael Punke, author of The Revenant

Jeffrey Lent, author of In the Fall

“A poignant and engaging thriller with a formidable lead character . . . a vibrant, tender novel of love, loss, stamina, and self-discovery.”


—Kirkus Reviews

“As harrowing as the whitewater adventure it chronicles, The Barrens is an epic tale of wilderness survival and death in the techno age. The writing throbs with presence: the life-force embedded in Canada’s northern frontier landscape and in the life-scape of its queer young heroine as she journeys toward selfhood. Co-authors Kurt and Ellie Johnson reveal the pulse of identity, born of the stories we weave. A mesmerizing, devastating read."

Carol Bruneau, Canadian author of Brighten the Corner Where You Are: A Novel Inspired by the Life of Maud Lewis



Kurt Johnson grew up in Minneapolis and spent summers on a remote island near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, first with his parents, later with his wife, and then daughter, Ellie. Both Kurt and Ellie are graduates of the University of Minnesota, Ellie just recently. Both live in the Twin Cities.

Ellie Thelon.JPG

Kurt Johnson

Ellie Johnson

In The Press

News & Events


Minnesota Book Award WINNER!
Novel and Short Story 


Goldie Award Winner 
Debut  Novel & General Fiction

News and Events

Women's National Book Association selects
The Barrens for Great Group Reads


Coming Up Next

No upcoming events at the moment


For Kurt Johnson:

For Ellie Johnson:

Agent - Philip Turner:

Publicist - Kim Dower:

Follow me:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
bottom of page