YEAR WALK by Ann Nolan Clark


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Ann Nolan Clark, who took us to visit the Irish Islands in Hoofprint on the Wind (KR, 1972), now introduces the Spanish Basques and their sons who became large-scale sheepherders in Idaho along about 1910. Once again the scenery is inviting as 16.year-old Kepa, along with his dog and his mule Patto-Kak, guide some 2,000 sheep through rolling hills and brushlands -- surviving misadventure from flood, coyote, snow and unfriendly cattlemen and conquering loneliness with the help of a wise old prospector, a guitar and a whittling knife. Yet when Kepa encounters another human being the dialogue is wooden (""I can't tell you what this means to me, son"") and his eventual decision to stay in America and court Chris, the daughter of his employer and godfather, is so managed and predictable that Kepa's individuality fades from sight. Nor will many readers care for the supposedly Americanized Chris who pines away when her affections are not immediately reciprocated and who later weepily promises that ""you. . .will walk the trails and I, like my mother did, will cry because you walk them."" Much of this stiffness stems from Clark's self-conscious efforts to evoke the laconic, sturdy Basque character, but Kepa mostly seems to be going nowhere slowly. Ironically, it's the sheep who provide some sense of direction and excitement here and for readers content to share the clear air and open spaces with them, it might just be enough.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1975
Publisher: Viking