"Every ranch...had lost a boy," thinks Dakotah Hicks as she drives through "the hammered red landscape" of Wyoming, "boys smiling, sure in their risks, healthy, tipped out of the current of life by liquor and acceleration, rodeo smashups, bad horses, deep irrigation ditches, high trestles, tractor rollovers and 'unloaded' guns. Her boy, too...The trip along this road was a roll call of grief."
Proulx's characters try to climb out of poverty and desperation but get cut down as if the land itself wanted their blood. Deeply sympathetic to the men and women fighting to survive in this harsh place, Proulx turns their lives into fiction with the power of myth -- and leaves the reader in awe.
The winner of two O. Henry Prizes, Annie Proulx has been anthologized in nearly every major collection of great American stories. Her bold, inimitable language, her exhilarating eye for detail and her dark sense of humor make this a profoundly compelling collection.
©2008 Annie Proulx; (P)2008 Simon & Schuster
These eight stories are a good companion for a long drive. They make you grateful for a full tank of gas, a bottle of water and a cell phone with a least a single bar.
"The Sagebrush Kid" is a sad, sweet tale of childless parents. "Deep-Blood-Greasy-Bowl" chronicles an ancient Indian tribe whose future relies on slaughtering a herd of bison. "I've Always Loved This Place" and "Swamp Mischief" are satirical pieces set in Hell. The remaining four stories are family tales, ranging from the days before statehood to the present. They are stories of loss, coping, continuity, legacy and erasure which anchor the others.
This is not a loose collection swept together by an author looking for a quick buck. “Fine, Just the Way It Is” is about the land, not the people. Even the Devil can’t homestead in Wyoming.
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Will Patton, as usual, is terrific. My only fault with the collection is the lack of a pause between the stories. They just run up on each other. The effect of a half page of white space at the end of a story is not rendered, and that's a flaw in the production.
* * *
It took me a couple of tries to get into this book. The stories are harsh and bare and gritty, like the Western landscape. Life is extremely hard, mistakes cost dearly, and nobody lives happily ever after. Having said that, I did not find the stories depressing. Lifelike would be a better word. Once I caught on, I found the book compelling.
Proulx does not disappoint and the narrator is excellent. Highly enjoyable and engaging stories with great presentation by the reader.
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