This is a great story told via Lydia's journal entries and third-person narrative following different characters. Lydia Sanderson "had it mind to come West and take up ranching" after a hard life in Pennsylvania, first with her parents, then her husband. She sells all of her deceased husbands worldly goods and buys a decrepit place on the Jump-off Creek in Oregon's Blue Mountains.
Gloss tells Lydia's story without the usual romanticizing of a pioneer woman's efforts, which I truly appreciated. Lydia is a strong, self-sufficient woman who takes to her new life with a serious resolve. She has a few encounters with other women and gets to know a couple of cowboy/ranchers near her place, but she is resolute in her "keenness to . . . stand under my own roof at last."
Gloss's writing is spare but eloquent and Lydia's journal entries are realistic and potent, as is the entire book. One of my favorite lines is ". . . he had seen the trees surprised often enough, hunched up in full green leaf under shawls of snow."
If there were 10 stars possible for Molly Gloss's wonderful novel, I'd give them. I'm rereading it for perhaps the 3rd time, and it continues to dumbfound me at the beauty of the language. And somehow when she describes a new character, the reader feels an acquaintance has already been established. I find myself thinking something like, "Oh, yes, he's like that mean guy who lived down the street when I was a child," or "Oh, right, she's like Joyce who lived next door and who was so patient with her kids, and with me, a moody pre-teen." Her characters are heroic in dealing daily with enormous hardships, but they do so in a quiet, matter-of-fact way that is so different from the nonsense offered in today's media. Also, Gloss's characters are not cookie-cutter Bad or Good, but rather are some of each, as is true for all us humans.
I really like this author's talent at putting herself into the voices of her characters and making them unique in the process. She has a great gift for the ways of talking and seeing in generations past. Just a wonderful, well-written book. The other book of hers which I've read is "Hearts of Horses" which is on my all-time great books list :)
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