One womanís tough, spirited life in the deserts and lonely ranges of the twentieth-century West
Novelist William Haywood Henderson has won acclaim for his precisely rendered and achingly beautiful evocations of land and nature and his ability to bring to vivid life the contemporary West of ranch hands and drifters. Of his most recent novel, The Rest of the Earth, Annie Proulx remarked that "Henderson writes some of the most evocative and transcendently beautiful prose in contemporary American literature."
Set primarily in Wyoming, Hendersonís new novel is the chronicle of six generations of a family, viewed through the lens of one womanís very long life. Augusta "Gussie" Locke is born in Minnesota in 1903. As a teenager she moves west with her mother to Colorado and then runs away from home. A one-night stand with a traveling soldier leaves her pregnant, and with her daughter, Anne, she eventually finds a life in Wyoming running supplies to oil and mineral crews in the Great Basin Divide. Through the years, Gussie keeps moving, abandoning people and places, being abandoned herself; Anne runs away just as her mother had, never to be seen again. Settling in the Wind River Range, Augusta, alone again, builds a new life until, years later, her grandson and great-granddaughter seek to discover the woman behind the family myth. Spanning the twentieth century, Augustaís extraordinary trials and tribulations play out themes of love and loss, redemption and reconciliation. Redolent with myth, humor, strange landscapes, and stark reality, Augusta Locke is an indelible portrait of a woman who through great spirit and toughness of character blazes her own trail.
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William Haywood Henderson has taught creative writing at Harvard and Brown and is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow in creative writing at Stanford. He is the author of two novels, The Rest of the Earth and Native. He grew up in Colorado and Wyoming.From Booklist:
*Starred Review* Henderson's novel is an extraordinarily beautiful creation, brought to the reader on the wings of the ravens that serve as its protagonist's familiars. Told in languorous prose virtually encrusted with the details of nature--very reminiscent of Annie Dillard--this story follows Gussie Locke through a lifetime of wandering. As soon as she can walk, Gussie is tracing the paths of her natural surroundings, following the flight of ravens through northern Minnesota, a few steps behind her father. As she grows, so does her preference for quiet, for the smells and sensations of the earth, and for a life away from the rules of polite society. Escaping her mother and new stepfather, she passes a passionate night that leaves her with child, and the rest of the novel follows the life she makes as a single mother in the first half of the twentieth century. The tender descriptions of Gussie's love for her child are especially touching, given her hardness elsewhere. Rarely is a woman portrayed in this way without reducing her to someone with some kind of gender confusion, but Henderson avoids these cliches. Gussie is truly her own kind of woman, and her own kind of mother. As much a story of lineage and the meaning of family as it is a story of nature, this novel covers a lot of ground in greater detail than one would imagine possible in some 400 pages. Read slowly, and enjoy this raw and haunting tale. Debi Lewis
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