Mantel's book is an ambitious one and it belongs in the realm of great regional writers such as William Faulkner and Wright Morris.

         —The Minneapolis Star Tribune


This novel in stories involves haunt as both noun and verb, as the places which inform the characters, and the memories, spirits, and obsessions which haunt them. Among the revenants in this novel are the chief, hanging men, murderous dreams, rapes, fits of madness, disappearances, and devils.

A complex spiritual symbology drawn from many sources—Lakota belief, Catholicism, personal mysticism—unifies the novel. The vision is intuitive and innovative, but nothing here feels troped or trite. By turns comical and lyrical, the vision and style are always affecting and always convincing.

Ultimately Elemental is elementally lovely.

         —Joan Connor, author of How to Stop Loving Someone


Elemental tracks the feverish members of a troubled family through three generations. This accomplished debut is lyrical and magical in its evocation of the human spirit at war with itself but in love with the world. Mantel, in the words of one of her characters, watches “the dead, but not in the way you might think.”

This book, once experienced in all of its trauma and beauty, will haunt you for a long time.

         —Alan Davis, author of So Bravely Vegetative


Atmospheric and electrifying, Mantel's novel vibrates with originality and poetic brilliance. Her frayed characters are “planted in the dirt of the plains” and do their best to make “abundance out of scarcity.” I admire this impressive debut, carefully crafted to take language and story to a new level.

         —Tara L. Masih, author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows


The Greek philosopher Empedocles was best known for his theory of the elements and for his conception of a cosmic cycle, which both complement this idea of friction and movement. Empedocles believed that all life was created from the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. He also believed that two key forces, love and strife, were responsible for bringing the four elements together and, paradoxically, separating them for eternity. All change and all difference is a result of how the elements are combined.

To connect the stories in Elemental not just through geographical location and relationships but also through the shared imagery of the elements seemed fitting, and the form of the stories—fragmented, subtitled—seemed also to suggest the elemental at play in the service of something larger.

Elemental spans six decades and follows the struggles of two white families and several Lakota women. Besides sharing a location, which is mainly North Dakota, these characters are tied together by loss and grief and by their fearless journey into both everyday horrors and the mystical. Their world is one where children appear and disappear, where recent friends immediately grow apart, and where mental illness steals minds.

In the Earth section, a wife, visited by the spirit of a dead Lakota chieftain, descends into madness just as her husband has a very different encounter with a living Lakota woman. In the Air section, a mother’s funeral is the backdrop of a protracted battle between sisters. In the Fire section, a high school student copes with her younger brother’s increasingly erratic and dangerous behavior. In the Water section, a man re-connects with an important woman from his tumultuous past.

These stories explore the transformative and often destructive power of the mind, the devastating effects of violence, and the workings of the undead.



Written by Tara Mantel
Produced and directed by Tara Mantel and Rajah Samaroo
Camera and editing by Rajah Samaroo
Music by Mark Mantel
Sound design by Andrew Bard

Actors (in order of appearance): Christina Moody, Natina Floyd, Tom Connors, Cailey Calisi, Alejandro Tomás Cornelio, Christopher Ferreira, Topher Hansson



Shot in early November 2013