Go West

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Go West

Summer is here and for many travelers that means exploring the western US with its wide open spaces, bright blue skies and colorful towns reminiscent of the Wild West.  American West literature features writers with equally big masterpieces.  If you’re yearning for a taste of Big Sky country as preparation for a trip across the Plains or as a vicarious experience, check out these classics by award-winning novelists who bring hardship, history and heroism to life with alluringly vivid detail.

Close Range by Annie Proulx
Annie Proux, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Shipping News, loves Wyoming. This collection of 11 short stories portrays protagonists and landscapes that are both grand and violent.  The most celebrated story in the collection, "Brokeback Mountain", made famous by Ang Lee's 2005 film of the same name, exemplifies the collection's themes of love and violence made all the more dangerous by the cruel nature of isolation and misunderstanding.  

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
Wallace Stegner was an American literary treasure and this 1972 Pulitzer Prize winning book stands as the testament to his success. Not just a writer of the American West and its rugged pioneers, Stegner was a master of the complexities born of relationships between the cultured and the crude, the prudent and the adventurous.  Lyman Ward, the story’s narrator, is wheel-chair bound grandson who explores the journey of his oddly-matched but equally strong grandparents across a nation young enough that silver mines and the steep roads to them haven't been charted. Breathtaking descriptions of mountains, plains, and prairies will captivate from beginning to end.   

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
She did say she didn't cook.  Widower Oliver Mulliron needs a woman to help him wrangle his three rambunctious sons on the plains of Montana in the early 1900s, and in Rose Llewellyn he mostly gets what he paid for:  a top-notch housekeeper with an exceptional disposition and sound morals. Written in convincing voices of Midwestern propriety, The Whistling Season moves through the poetically colorful lives of Oliver and his boys and readers watch them grow to admire Rose and her intellectual brother Morris for the newcomers' unanticipated lessons in trust, hope and redemption. Unfortunately, Oliver still has to cook.  

Winter in the Blood by James Welch 
Slim, beautifully written novel about a Native American man wrestling both with the harsh realities of life on Fort Belknap Reservation in north central Montana and the weight of his ancestral legacy. Welch’s descriptions of the landscape and the struggles of the unnamed narrator are gritty and bleak, making for a dark tale.  Winter in the Blood was adapted into an independent film in 2012 and produced by Native American author Sherman Alexie.  

Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison
Harrison was one of America’s most beloved and critically acclaimed writers. Legends of the Fall is Harrison at his best.  
The title novella, “Legends of the Fall”—which was made into the film of the same name—is an epic tale of three brothers in early twentieth-century Montana who fight in the distant European battlefields of World War I only to return home to revenge and violence among themselves.