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Fencing the Sky

Galvin, James

304 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0805062203 / ISBN 13: 9780805062205
Published by Henry Holt & Company, 1999
Condition: Near Fine Hardcover
From The Haunted Bookshop, LLC (Iowa City, IA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Signed by the author at the title page with no date or inscription, this copy is crisp, bright, and clean; a minor binding error makes the last three signatures curve slightly outward at the foreedge, but edge still remains within hard cover. Jacket now protected in a new, clear sleeve. Bookseller Inventory # 042747

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Fencing the Sky

Publisher: Henry Holt & Company

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:Near Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: First Printing.

Book Type: 2

About this title


A haunting novel of the American West about an accidental murder that springs from the best intentions.

Stepping his horse through the lush, beaver-worked draw looking for stray cows, Mike Arans never imagined that, moments later, he'd find himself swinging a nylon loop around Merriweather Snipes and pulling until his neck snapped. Once Snipes was dead, Mike fished a notepad and a stub of pencil from his pocket, wrote "I did this," signed his name, and stuffed the note into Snipes's breast pocket. Then Mike rode to his house, stocked up on supplies, and rode due west.

Fencing the Sky is the story of how circumstances spiral out of control, the story of gross indifference and avarice in the face of breathtaking beauty. Ultimately, James Galvin's novel is a book about violence and how it destroys lives when the land is at stake. This long-awaited lyrical first novel is nothing less than the story of the disappearance of the American West.


James Galvin opens his first novel with a shocking, seemingly inexplicable murder--horseman Mike Arans closes on a pistol-packing motorist named Merriwether Snipes, throws a rope and snaps his neck--and then proceeds to illuminate why it happened, what it means, and how Mike deals with the consequences. Though billed as a novel, Fencing the Sky is in fact a more deeply fictionalized continuation of The Meadow, Galvin's partly historic, partly imagined evocation of a way of life that took hold on an upland Wyoming ranch for a century and then blew away.

If The Meadow is elegiac, Fencing the Sky is angry and blackly humorous. This is the grim, greedy '90s, when swaggering developers like Merriwether Snipes ride the range in their ATV's, carving up the old homesteads into 40-acre ranchettes and making life hell for the few decent people who remain. Galvin makes three of these holdouts his heroes--Oscar Rose, who supports a cattle habit (and family) by working as a vet; Adkisson Trent, a doctor who inherited from his father a spectacular spread and a penchant for proud solitude; and Arans, the renegade, who fled from New Jersey to become a cowboy. The heat of the book rises from the connections and passions of these men--their women and work troubles, their unspoken bond with each other, their fury at Snipes and everything he represents.

Galvin, a poet, has assembled his narrative out of vivid shards, yet, despite the jump-cuts, this is an old-fashioned novel at heart, with heroes and villains, heartbreak and suspense, and characters so real you want to ride out and shake hands. The same themes, the same imagery, the same equine adoration crop up in Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry, but Galvin has a lighter touch, eschewing myth for the minute particulars of hard work and hard luck in a single community. Galvin can also crack a good joke, even though he knows as well as anyone that there's not a lot to laugh about under the big sky these days. --David Laskin

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