From Publishers Weekly
Memoirist and story writer Kittredge's first novel (after The Nature of Generosity
and Hole in the Sky
) tells the life story of Rossie Benasco, the ornery son of a Reno, Nev., casino pit boss who, at age 15 in the early 1930s, takes work as a "wrango boy" at a Nevada ranch owned by retired rodeo legend Slivers Flynn. Rossie's intimate relationship with Slivers's daughter causes Slivers to give Rossie a choice: run a couple hundred horses to Calgary or stay and "have a mess of redheaded kids." Rossie chooses the thousand-mile trek and, at trail's end, falls for Eliza Stevenson, the beautiful and pregnant (the father "went batshit" and is in prison for assault) daughter of a Scottish businessman. Eliza's father deeds the family's Montana farm to Rossie to nudge him into marrying Eliza, and the couple seal their relationship with the birth of a son and a wedding. Kittredge moves Rossie along with a compelling confidence: Rossie learns to run a farm, watches his son mature and adopts an orphaned girl before joining the Marine Corps in December 1941; he is shot by a fellow soldier and spends most of his tour working as a supply clerk. Years later, his children grown, Rossie gets involved in local and state politics, which proves to be as perilous as the Pacific theater. Kittredge balances earthy dialogue with lyrical prose to create a memorable evocation of the American west. (Oct. 6)
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*Starred Review* Rossie Benasco, a young man in Reno in the 1930s, turns his back on school and family and goes off "to be his own man with horses." But women get in the way. That premise stands behind much of western literature. Sometimes it's expressed in the formulaic terms of genre fiction, and other times, as in Kittredge's luminous first novel, it opens up an exploration of the magnetic fields that draw people together and push them apart. Kittredge's multigenerational saga begins with a stunning set piece--a classic horse drive, more than 200 head, from Nevada to Calgary. Rossie, a veteran ranch hand but still barely 20, signs on for the drive as a way of breaking ties with a girl and winds up forging even stronger ties with another girl, Eliza Stevenson, the unmarried but pregnant daughter of a rancher in Montana's Bitterroot Mountains. "We could be it, entirely it," Eliza says shortly after she meets Rossie, and as we watch their lives unfold, from the Depression through World War II and on into the 1960s, we realize that this strong-willed woman was both right and wrong. Like Birkin and Ursula in D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love
, Rossie and Eliza are "entirely it," but--fiery individuals both--they are also in perpetual conflict, cherishing their union just as they struggle not to be consumed by the other. This transcendent love story is at the heart of Kittredge's novel, but it is set against not one but two imposing landscapes--the Bitterroot and the Nevada desert, both of which demand their own allegiance from the characters' minds and hearts. Readers of Kittredge's acclaimed memoirs of growing up in the West, including the classic A Hole in the Sky
(1994), have been anticipating his first novel for years. "Go to horses with no rush," Rossie's mentor explains to him, "but no fucking around, that's the deal." Kittredge knows that deal, and he gets it exactly right. Bill OttCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved