top of page

MISSISSIPPI RIVER MUSEUM by Keith Pilapil Lesmeister


ISBN: 978-1-7329820-7-9

Binding: Trade paper

Publication date: March 2, 2023


When Joe Patterson arrives in a rural upper Midwestern river town in order to fix up and sell his late father’s “cabin,” a host of issues for which he’s not prepared confront him: the house is in shambles, his body aches, his checking account is almost empty, and he meets a twelve-year-old boy in need of help. A story of hope, loss, and redemption, Mississippi River Museum explores the unlikely friendship between two orphans who bond over fishing, bikes, and eating fried catfish.



Mississippi River Museum is a gut punch of an American story, set in a corner of northeast Iowa that simmers with menace and a slow-moving beauty. Its hero, Joe Patterson, breaks the mold of the usual rural archetypes: he’s biracial, full of heart, and aching, though he doesn’t know it, for a family of his own. Keith Pilapil Lesmeister’s chapbook is an instant classic.

—Benjamin Anastas, author of Too Good to Be True: a memoir


In his Mississippi River Museum, Keith Pilapil Lesmeister has created Joe Patterson: a compelling character who struggles with his sense of self and place; struggles with a past that meanders menacingly like an almost still river through his blood; struggles with those stories we all carry inside to protect ourselves from admitting the truth. There’s a desperate beauty to Joe’s searching story, his almost quiet and tender loss, confusion, and rage. His heart is big, his vision steadily moving towards clarity.  Lesmeister composes glimpses into the racism and violence Joe faces, as he begins to care, change, and act to make the most of his “work-in-progress” life. In this unique and necessary region along the upper Mississippi, Keith Pilapil Lesmeister has composed a powerful and beautiful fiction.

—Fred Arroyo, author of Sown in Earth: Essays of Memory and Belonging


Mississippi River Museum is Keith Pilapil Lesmeister’s masterclass in patient interiority and how to finesse nuanced storytelling out of ache, river silt, and catfish scales. Don’t miss out on one of the finest Midwestern writers at work.

—Ron Austin, author of Avery Colt is a Snake, a Thief, a Liar


In Mississippi River Museum, Keith Pilapil Lesmeister works his slow and assured magic, reeling the reader in like one of the sunnies Joe Patterson tries to catch in the story. Each surprise comes as a flash breaking the surface of the clean, fluid prose. This is an arresting and redemptive tale about a young man and a boy, about generations of hurt being handed down. Lesmeister depicts the upper Midwest like no other author I know, refusing to turn away from its ugliness—or its devastating environmental beauty. On the merit of this story alone, I’d read anything Keith Pilapil Lesmeister writes.

—Rachel Swearingen, author of How to Walk on Water and Other Stories


About the author

Keith Pilapil Lesmeister is the author of the story collection We Could’ve Been Happy Here. He’s a founding editor of Cutleaf, a literary journal, and EastOver Press. His fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, Gettysburg Review, New Stories from the Midwest, North American Review, and many others. He lives and works in the Driftless region of northeast Iowa.


Mississippi River Museum by Keith Pilapil Lesmeister

SKU: MRM020623
  • From Midwestern short story writer Keith Pilapil Lesmeister

bottom of page