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
Memoirs of Stockholm Sven
By Nathaniel Ian Miller
Little, Brown and Company
Oct. 26, 2021
From the publisher: In 1916, Sven Ormson leaves a restless life in Stockholm to seek adventure in Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago where darkness reigns four months of the year and he might witness the splendor of the Northern Lights one night and be attacked by a polar bear the next. But his time as a miner ends when an avalanche nearly kills him, leaving him disfigured, and Sven flees even further, to an uninhabited fjord. There, with the company of a loyal dog, he builds a hut and lives alone, testing himself against the elements.
From Marya at Out West Books: “OK, OK, I know this is a stretch as far as local-centrism. As I was putting a copy of this book on the shelf, a couple of photos of the arctic fell out . Looking a little closer, I discovered that the copy had been inscribed to me and that the author, Nathaniel Ian Miller, had fond memories of living near Collbran and had also worked on newspapers in Colorado.
“I loved the beautiful writing and setting of this novel, based on a real-life character, as his “discovered” memoirs. We’ve all read about shipwrecks and survival in the Arctic but rarely do we read about someone choosing to live there! Despite the stark isolation of the Arctic in the early 1900’s, the introverted Sven finds that kindness, love and connection can make even the most reclusive life perfectly fulfilling. I thought about this book for days after finishing. Highly recommended.”
One Man’s West
By David Lavender
Oct. 31, 2007
From the publisher: The American West of the 1930s and 1940s was still a place of prospectors, cowboys, ranchers, and mountaineers, one that demanded backbreaking, lonely, and dangerous work. Still, mid-century pioneers such as David Lavender remembered “not the cold and the cruel fatigue, but rather the multitude of tiny things which in their sum make up the elemental poetry of rock and ice and snow.” And as the nation exhausted its gold and silver veins, as law reached the boomtowns on the frontier, and as the era of the great cattle ranches and drives came to an end, Lavender felt compelled to document his experiences in rugged southwest Colorado to preserve this rapidly disappearing way of life.
“One Man’s West” is Lavender’s ode to his days on the Continental Divide and the story of his experiences making a living in the not so wild but not yet tamed West. Like stories told around a campfire, One Man’s West is captivating yet conversational, incredible yet realistic, and introduces some of the most charming characters in western literature.
From Marya at Out West Books: “This memoir of life in western Colorado is one of my (and my grandad’s…..it’s been around for a while) all time favorite books. I sell it like mad in my store, but I’m not certain it’s well known elsewhere.
“Though he is known more for his books on Western history, David Lavender’s One Man’s West is his own story of life in western Colorado. David was born in Telluride when it was still a mining town. He and his brother, Dwight, climbed peaks when it was considered “tetched” to do so for fun. In fact, Lavender Peak in the Wilsons is named after Dwight.
“David’s recounting of working in the Camp Bird Mine as a young man is rich with descriptions of the miners, Ouray, and long winters in the San Juans. Later, as a young married man, he managed the Star Ranch near what is now Uravan, summered in camp just below the Lone Cone and ran cattle on his stepfather’s ranch in the Paradox Valley.
“This part of Colorado’s landscape and history, so often overlooked, is beautifully conveyed. In a strange ‘tribute’ to his writing, David Lavender is the person historian Stephen Ambrose was called out for plagiarizing. I often tell customers that David Lavender is the ‘Wallace Stegner of western Colorado’ and I stand by that.”
By Braden Hepner
Torrey House Press
Sept. 9, 2014
From the publisher: Jack Selvedge works a dying trade in a dead town. When Rebekah Rainsford returns on the run from her father, her dark history consumes him, and she becomes the potential for his salvation, the only thing that might dredge him up from his crisis of indifference. As betrayal and tragedy change Jack’s life forever, he discovers a new if nascent hope amid the harshly beautiful western landscape that shaped him. A deeply written and deeply felt story of love, depravity, and shattered ideals, Pale Harvest examines the loss of beauty, purity, and simplicity within the mindset of the rural American West.
From Marya at Out West Books: “This is a tragic story, rivetingly told. There were times I knew where this was all headed (not a good place), but I couldn’t leave the story unfinished. Braden Hepner is a very good writer, and while others have made comparisons to Steinbeck and even Stegner, Hepner’s transfixing description of hard lives on an uncaring land is his alone. He explores life’s dark corners, and doesn’t look away.
“Tough sledding at times, and the story and then the epilogue leave you feeling empty – and sad. I have no doubt the author knows this life and this kind of isolation and what it is capable of doing to human beings; and how you just can’t know which way it’ll go, when the tipping point comes. It takes time for the erosion to show which way a person will fall, and to reveal who else will tragically suffer for it. And the land and sky shrug, and hold their rain….”