In Loren’s debut literary fiction, Zeb Robbins and his sister Willa are products of the wild western mountains, where “not fitting in was the only way to fit in.”
Willa is a wildlife researcher, monitoring Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico’s Días de Ojos National Forest. Zeb, a chronic thief during childhood, drives a truck, but he prefers his cabin, his horses, his hunting bow and the forests of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. The story switches from present day back to the pair's childhood. Nearly raising themselves, Zeb and Willa provide care and support for their mother. Stoic, somewhat bitter over being relegated to a tract house adjoining her family’s farm (seized by eminent domain), the mother is incapacitated by Parkinson’s disease. Their father is on the road much of the time or working more than one job, unaware of Zeb’s thefts, Willa’s complicity and his children’s chronic problems with a neighbor who abuses his wife. Loren switches points of view from Willa to Zeb and sometimes to Brenda, childhood friend and later, Zeb’s lover. Brenda is Native American, adopted into a neighborhood family. Her natural father, Raymond, enters the story and offers another perspective on the reintroduction of the nearly extinct wolf. Zeb’s outlier behavior, “living on an edge sharp enough that it toughened his own skin but left his insides shredded and vulnerable and tired,” is wonderfully drawn, as is the powerful bond between the siblings. For reasons worthy of speculation, Zeb confesses to a long-ago murder, and a Colorado sheriff demands that Willa, a master tracker, trail Zeb into the mountains. The mood and myth and magic of the high country, especially Willa’s life atop an isolated mesa and Zeb’s mountain refuge, will resonate with those who love the American southwest.
A literary narrative encompassing the bonds of family, the echo of tragedy, as well as love and acceptance, played out against a fragile yet enduring natural world.