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Heart of the Beast: A Novel Hardcover – August 28, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (August 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743211790
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743211796
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #826,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this debut novel, Iris Steele, the last member of an Oregon farming family, inherits a ranch called Heart of the Beast and finds that the land she grew up on is considered sacred ground by the Nez Perce Indians. She also inherits a legacy of thievery, intolerance, violence, and guilt from her Indian-hating ancestors. When the Nez Perce tribe sues Iris for the land, she must prove that her claim is legitimate. She scours her family's records for legal proof of ownership, but proof of a moral right to the land is more elusive. In her search, she must confront memories of a cold, distant mother and a father whose rage caused two violent deaths in Iris's family. She also finds an unexpected connection to her courtroom enemy, the Nez Perce. Iris's story weaves through four generations of Oregonians, gradually revealing the truth Iris must face if she is to keep her land and make peace with the past. This first novel offers a moving portrait of an unforgiving yet beautiful land and the toughness needed to survive in it. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.Karen Anderson, Phoenix
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Iris Steele is born to farm, not on small, family-scale terrain, but on huge stretches of Oregon's wheat country, and farm she does with a passion that stretches back several generations to the first settlers of the territory. Her mother's ancestral farm, the Heart of the Beast, is rented out while Iris works her father's land. Labor, climate, and land are all hard, and so are the people and the violent emotions that rule their lives. Great wealth, power, and ego in no way negate their connection to the land and tradition, nor insulate them from suffering. In fact, there's a new challenge: the Nez Perce are suing to reclaim the Heart of the Beast, which they claim was stolen from their ancestors. Iris, nearly the last of the line when her mother dies, investigates her family history to know where she stands, not only legally but morally and emotionally as well. This big, sweeping modern western is burdened somewhat by stylistic excesses but is, nonetheless, hard to put down. Danise Hoover
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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This novel can only be described as tragic.
Ratmammy
I loved the strength, tenacity and vulnerability of Iris Steele ... she is an inspiration.
A Grateful Reader
I look forward to reading more of her work.
C. Teifke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This beautifully written book tackles hard family issues of love, acceptance and devotion. Joyce Weatherford brings the Eastern Oregon landscape alive with colorful descriptions and a true understanding of life in the wild west, its hardships and its beauty. Her story of the relationships developed there combined with the area's history is told in a way which keeps you on the edge of your seat. The plot twists and turns as the characters learn more about themselves and each other. As if helping you explore your own roots and personality, Joyce Weatherford develops her characters in a way that makes you feel as if you have not just observed their development, but have grown and matured with them as well. A wonderful read; very inspiring.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Joyce Weatherford's gripping drama about ranching, legacy, adversity, love and sacrifice, invites us to the family farm -- a place that is so fundamental to our society, yet so foreign to most of us. Heart of the Beast is profound and eloquent, and challenges each of us to consider our place and impact on our family and society, past and present. It is one of historic relevance, yet written with a contemporary flare with humorous references that help ease the intense pain that you feel about the characters' realities. It is also beautiful, visual and vivid -- a picture book without the pictures.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Don't plan on doing anything when you pick this book up because you won't want to put it down until the last beautiful word. It's like a rich tapestry of words. I heard Joyce Weatherford speak at a luncheon about this book. She said her publisher called early one morning and woke her up with the words, "you are one hell of a writer." She was right. The imagery and character development are terrific. The beginning feels almost a little too dark, but hang on. Soon the story will grip you and you will find yourself absorbed in Iris Steele's life. My book club recently read this book. A few members couldn't get past the morose beginning, those of us who finished it, loved it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I thought the beginning was a bit slow and meandering, but once the characters and the story line were more fully developed I found it a riveting story with incredibly realistic imagery. The author's descriptions of life on an Oregon ranch are so rich and realistic (she even describes the manure caked on the haunches of the cattle) that the reader really feels he is on the ranch -- I felt I could smell it! There is also a contemporary irony that I really enjoyed; while Iris (and the author)is certainly sympathetic to the plight of the Indians, she acknowledges some of today's more controversial realities -- for example the "sacred land" the Nez Perce tribe tries to reclaim (that has been Iris's mother's family ranch for generations) will, it is implied, likely end up as a casino (that may be run by "Indians" with only the remotest trace of Nez Perce blood).
The story-line of Heart of the Beast exists on many levels: the Indian's pursuit of Iris's land, Iris dealing with the ghosts of her deceased family, particularly her militaristic father, Iris's inability to commit to the man she probably loves -- and ultimately learning to submit herself, (and give up her precious land!!) to the ones she loves, and culminates into a courtroom drama in which we finally learn the history (including the climactic Nez Perce legend of the Heart of the Beast) that has led to the "way things are" today. Like the imagery, the plot is mostly starkly realistic, but it provides enough unexpected turns to make the book an interesting page turner as well (with admittedly a few disappointing leaps of reality, but they move the story along nicely).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The metaphors that revolve around farming are as useful and thought provoking today as they were one hundred years ago when the pioneers ventured west of the Great Divide. Images of culling poor cattle out of the herd, emasculating bulls into steers, driving cattle, and sowing and harvesting a crop are among the many Weatherford gives HEART OF THE BEAST to tell a story and allude to greater themes of life. Weatherford slays the idyllic western and paints a harsh picture of the realities of the Pioneer Trinity: control of land, succession of land, and love of land.
Joyce Weatherford brings the reader "up close and personal" to one family farm, the Steele's. The transition from one generation to the next in farming has been written about in terms of inheritance laws, but never in terms of the emotional and physical price the succeeding generation pays to continue. Weatherford spares no one's feelings as she lays out the blood and death that remains the oldest way of passing on the land. In this case, to a daughter.
Weatherford is adept at drawing the reader through the customs and landscape of her story. The Steele family's disintegration is linked to the same trait that kept the family's ancestors on the Oregon Trail: violent, blood-pounding rage. It is bestial, and like the Nez Perce Creation Story of Heart of the Beast, it does swallow victims whole. Weatherford's ability to create characters true to this historical secret will test the reader's fortitude. Her characters are long overdue for inclusion into the body of work that makes up "fiction of the West." Her descriptions of farming and small communities are accurate, as are the ironies that constantly test a dwindling way of life. She has created a story that not everyone will be able to handle; but those who can will be rewarded.
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