Three noteworthy debuts set against the vast Montana sky, a place "(o)f wide open spaces and lives narrowly, desperately lived at the bitter ends of dirt and gravel roads."
Billings (MT) attorney (Yale Law, Oxford-Rhodes Scholar), Carrie La Seur's debut is "a blend of romance, nostalgia and suspense." The Home Place has been "part of the family for generations, ...built by her great-grandfather and represents to Alma comfort and memories of simpler and happier times." Twelve years after walking away from an accident on an icy Montana road that killed her parents, and left her younger sister Vicki maimed, an unexpected call from the local police draws the successful lawyer Alma Terrebonne back home. Vicky is dead. Whether her death is accidental or not, the lying, party-loving and drug user of a single mother left behind a traumatized daughter. Alma not only comes face to face with cold-hard realities, family secrets, small-town ways, but also her unresolved feelings for Chance Murphy, the high school sweetheart she left behind.
"Walloping in suspense, drama, rage, and remorse, this debut is an accomplished literary novel of the new West."
Painted Horses * * by Malcolm Brooks captures the grandeur of the American West and prosperity of mid-1950s America.
Catherine Lemay, a young archaeologist is tasked with rescuing any historical artifacts in a Montana canyon ahead of damming and destruction for a hydroelectric project that has divided the locals, including the Crow Indians and others with an interest in the future of the land. Meeting trickery and deception at every turn, she eventually enlisted the help of the Crow girl Miriam, and John H, an artist, a former mustanger who was living a fugitive life in the canyon. When they met, intrigue sparked respect, which eventually flared into passion.
Brooks' themes suggest Jim Harrison or Cormac McCarthy and will remind readers of the great Wallace Stegner.
PEN Literary Award winner Smith Henderson sets his debut Fourth of July Creek * * in the Montana of the late 1970s-early 1980s, and explores "the complexities of freedom, community, grace, suspicion and anarchy, brilliantly depicting our nation's disquieting and violent contradictions."
Tenmile, Montana, impoverish and miles from nowhere, just the place for dedicated social worker Pete Snow who finds solace in its remoteness and plenty of dysfunctional families in need of his services. But he never expects to be a person of interest to the FBI when he takes on the case of Benjamin Pearl, a nearly feral 11-year-old boy, whose father, Jeremiah is a profoundly disturbed, paranoid survivalist.
"First-novelist Henderson not only displays an uncanny sense of place, he clearly knows rural Montana and its impassable roads, its dank bars, its speed freaks and gas huffers; he also creates an incredibly rich cast of characters, from Pete's drunken, knuckle-headed friends to the hard-luck waitress who serves him coffee to the disturbed, love-sick survivalist. Dark, gritty, and oh so good."
These debuts will appeal to fans of Rick Bass, Ivan Doig, and Larry Watson "who writes with ruthless honesty about his characters' stunted dreams, unpredictable emotions and outbursts of senseless violence, showing once again that he understands not only the West but the untamed hearts that have roamed it. "
* * = 2 starred reviews