As part of The Colorado Sun’s literature section — SunLit — we’re featuring staff picks from book stores across the state. >> Click here for more SunLit
This week’s bookstore: Out West Books, 533 Main St., Grand Junction
From the publisher: When Catherine Raven finished her PhD in biology, she built herself a tiny cottage on an isolated plot of land in Montana. She was as emotionally isolated as she was physically, but she viewed the house as a way station, a temporary rest stop where she could gather her nerves and fill out applications for what she hoped would be a real job that would help her fit into society. In the meantime, she taught remotely and led field classes in nearby Yellowstone National Park.
Then one day she realized that a mangy-looking fox was showing up on her property every afternoon at 4:15 p.m. She had never had a regular visitor before. How do you even talk to a fox? She brought out her camping chair, sat as close to him as she dared, and began reading to him from The Little Prince. Her scientific training had taught her not to anthropomorphize animals, yet as she grew to know him, his personality revealed itself and they became friends.
From Out West Books: This is one of my favorite books this year. I had to keep setting it aside….. for all the right, thought-provoking reasons. From the fox, Catherine learned the most important thing about loneliness: we are never alone when we are connected to the natural world.
From the Publisher: In 1866, with the country barely recovered from the Civil War, new war breaks out on the western frontier—a clash of cultures between the Native tribes who have lived on the land for centuries and a young, ambitious nation. Colonel Henry Carrington arrives in Wyoming’s Powder River Valley to lead the US Army in defending the opening of a new road for gold miners and settlers. Carrington intends to build a fort in the middle of critical hunting grounds, the home of the Lakota. Red Cloud, one of the Lakota’s most respected chiefs, and Crazy Horse, a young but visionary warrior, understand full well the implications of this invasion. For the Lakota, the stakes are their home, their culture, their lives.
As fall bleeds into winter, Crazy Horse leads a small war party that confronts Colonel Carrington’s soldiers with near constant attacks. Red Cloud, meanwhile, wants to build the tribal alliances that he knows will be necessary to defeat the soldiers. Colonel Carrington seeks to hold together a US Army beset with internal discord. Carrington’s officers are skeptical of their commander’s strategy, none more so than Lieutenant George Washington Grummond, who longs to fight a foe he dismisses as inferior in all ways. The rank-and-file soldiers, meanwhile, are still divided by the residue of civil war, and tempted to desertion by the nearby goldfields.
Throughout this taut saga—based on real people and events—Michael Punke brings the same immersive, vivid storytelling and historical insight that made his breakthrough debut so memorable. As Ridgeline builds to its epic conclusion, it grapples with essential questions of conquest and justice that still echo today.
From Out West Books: Michael Punke’s well researched and interpreted historical fiction of the Fetterman Massacre has been another personal favorite this year. There is an abundance of history in this book, and the author’s historical notes on each of the real life characters at the end only deepen and complete the story.
By Claire Boyles
Published June 15, 2021
From the publisher: Firmly rooted in the modern American West, Site Fidelity follows women and families who feel the instinctual, inexplicable pull of a home they must work to protect from the effects of economic inequity and climate catastrophe. A seventy-four-year-old nun turns to eco-sabotage to stop a fracking project. A woman delivers her own baby in a Nevada ghost town. A young farmer hides her chicken flock from the government during a bird flu epidemic. An ornithologist returns home to care for her rancher father and gets caught up trying to protect a breeding group of endangered Gunnison sage grouse.
In lean, lyrical prose, Claire Boyles evokes the bleakness and beauty of our threatened western landscapes. Spanning the decades from the 1970s to a plausible near future, this knockout debut introduces unforgettable characters who must confront the challenges of caregiving and loss alongside the very practical impacts of fracking, water rights law, and other agricultural policies. Site Fidelity is a vivid, intimate, and deeply human exploration of life on the shifting terrain of our changing planet.
From Out West Books: With her fascinating and forthright writing, Claire Boyles has produced an amazing group of Colorado stories that explore the love of land, the pull of home and the knotty loyalties within families. Her writing evokes the many aspects of Colorado landscapes, and all are woven together with seamless threads that make these stories an integrated family of their own. A wonderful insightful read!
The Nature of Desert Nature
Edited by Gary Paul Nabhan
Published April 2021
From the publisher: In this refreshing collection, one of our best writers on desert places, Gary Paul Nabhan, challenges traditional notions of the desert. Beautiful, reflective, and at times humorous, Nabhan’s extended essay also called “The Nature of Desert Nature” reveals the complexity of what a desert is and can be. He passionately writes about what it is like to visit a desert and what living in a desert looks like when viewed through a new frame, turning age-old notions of the desert on their heads.
Nabhan invites a prism of voices—friends, colleagues, and advisors from his more than four decades of study of deserts—to bring their own perspectives. Scientists, artists, desert contemplatives, poets, and writers bring the desert into view and investigate why these places compel us to walk through their sands and beneath their cacti and acacia. We observe the spines and spears, stings and songs of the desert anew. Unexpected. Surprising. Enchanting. Like the desert itself, each essay offers renewed vocabulary and thoughtful perceptions.
The desert inspires wonder. Attending to history, culture, science, and spirit, The Nature of Desert Nature celebrates the bounty and the significance of desert places.
From Out West Books: Nature of Desert Nature is one of those rare collections of writing where a certain kind of gestalt happens: each piece is distinct, yet all come together to portray something more than the whole. I could taste the desert air when reading this book. Particularly transcending and moving were these lines from Stephen Trimble’s piece, “A Bright and Shining Place”: “As we travel on through (the desert), we see in color. We breathe in clarity. We live in light. And words really don’t suffice.”