Rock-ribbed Montana love story. Wolfe's second novel (after the passionate 1995 fable, The Woman Who Lives in the Earth) downplays the more fantastic elements of that earlier tale in favor of muscle-to-bone storytelling. Here, sleek real-estate-demographics analyst Liz Hanson, after 23 years away, returns to Montana to visit her aged grandmother, whose cluttered, chaotic house fronts a lake once used for logging. Once there, Liz discovers a painting on Masonite of a flying woman named Rose, and the story then leaps back to 1948, when Rose Red Crows, a white woman raised by Indians, returns from work in a California aircraft factory to waitress in the tiny town's only diner. Soon after, in drifts Cody Hayes, a saw-sharpener and gifted machinist. At first, he plans to work in town only long enough to pay for the repairs his old truck needs. But then he meets Rose. Love blooms, but it's a dangerous love. Dominating the town is the lake, a deep, mysterious body of water that Rose sees as having supernatural qualities, as something able to bestow life or ecstasy on those who believe. After building a sea wall for an ambitious local, Cody works out a method for dredging sunken logs lying on the clear lake's bottom, with the intention of selling them to a distant mill. Meantime, the diner's regulars, many of them lusting after Rose themselves, take a fierce dislike to Cody, and when two kids bust open a gas pump and set part of the town and the lake afire with 5,000 gallons of gasoline, he's framed for the disaster. As a result, Cody's actually committed to a nearby electroshock-happy asylum for observation—while Rose pines and sets about his rescue. The story soars off into an astonishing climax, nicely mingling the mundane and marvelous and once again demonstrating Wolfe's stirring, original power as a storyteller.
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