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The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing Up on The Big Dry Hardcover – February 28, 2012
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Joe Wilkins writes his truths straight from the broken heart of a broken land. When I read his personal stories, so lyrically and wondrously imagined, I feel a beautiful and sometimes terrifying emotion rise up in memythic, redemptive, and sustaining. If you want to read what matters, read this.” Kim Barnes, author of In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country
Joe Wilkins’ sketches of life in Montana’s Big Dry country, north of Billings and halfway to nowhere, are filled with a potent combination of loving poetry and bitter nostalgia. You can smell the sage and wild onions and feel how this land apart forms and twists those who live there, and sometimes kills them. Wilkins’ search for his fatherand for himselftakes its own twist: the Big Dry may care nothing for pilgrims and father seekers, but it marks its own as surely as a father marks a son.” John N. Maclean
Joe Wilkins grew up on the enormous plains of eastern Montana. He found plenty to respect and revere and plenty to escape. And he learned the stories and how to tell them. The Mountain and the Fathers is vivid and compelling. We're reading it in Montana in order to understand ourselves. And for the pure pleasure we find in the storytelling.” William Kittredge
"Joe Wilkins grew up hard in the middle of nowherethe bent-back, make-do world of the driest, loneliest country in all Montanaand after reading this memoir about the West, about myth, about manhood, about grief and transcendence, I felt at once heartbroken and hopeful and ultimately awed by his ability to twist sentences like barbed wire, his voice wondrously rich with dirt-and-gravel poetry." Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding
Wilkinswho writes out of the James Wright and Richard Hugo traditionhas a voice all his own. Each sentence is a hand-built and beautiful thing The words at time feel old and weary. Sometimes they feel expansive like Montana’s plains. Sometimes they suffocate the reader under the weight of expectations. Other times they are so dry and barren that they nearly blow off the page. But they are always poetic, and they always sing in a voice that so few writers possess.” Brevity
Page after page and sentence after sentence, this is one of the best-written and most readable books to come across this reader’s desk, worthy of keeping company with such excellent nonfiction such as A River Runs Through It, Blue Highways, and Tom Montag’s Curlew.” Briar Cliff Review
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As a native Montanan, I visited the Jersey Lily many years ago, and it has so much more meaning to me now that I've read this remarkable memoir. My Montana, though truth for me, is so different from Joe Wilkins' experience; but I suppose that's the terrific beauty of our native state - it can encompass all these truths, all the mothers and fathers and grandfathers, the mythic stoicism of the self-reliant farmer and rancher, the homesteaders of our past and present. I will always love Montana, and more so, somehow, after reading this brilliant book. Thank you.