A standoff between a rancher and the government—dead-set on seizing his herd of cattle—spirals dangerously toward a violent confrontation in this debut novel.
For decades, the Bureau of Land Management has been increasing the limits on grazing rights in Nevada, supposedly motivated by issues of environmental protection. Harlan Hale, a rancher all his life with more than a thousand head of cattle, stubbornly refuses to comply, defiantly citing his constitutional rights. Will Bearfoot, who works for the BLM, is ordered by his boss to return to the Midas Range—he grew up there—and convince Harlan to relent before the government is compelled to take more aggressive action. But when Will arrives, the area is a virtual tinderbox of conflict. The supervising BLM agent, Elmer England, died as the result of a chimney fire, though some suspect foul play was at work. A fire is started at the BLM office—a message of warning—and then a BLM official shoots and kills one of Harlan’s bulls, provoking a possible escalation of reprisals. Then a BLM official is jumped by masked men and mercilessly beaten, and Will’s father, Rodney, is badly injured when a bomb explodes in Will’s truck. Meanwhile, Will deals with the awkwardness of his reunion with Jordan, the wife of John Henry, Harlan’s eldest son. They were in love with each other once, but Will was accused and convicted of grand larceny, a felony that ruined their relationship, ended his dream of attending college, and inspired him to skip town. Borgos seamlessly braids several intersecting plotlines into a unified tapestry, artfully capturing the way the traumas of the past intransigently grip the present. The writing is plain and even folksy, allowing the characters to powerfully speak for themselves. Jordan, in particular, emerges as a profoundly complex character, struggling to reconcile her attraction to Will, which comes unbidden but not entirely unwelcome. Finally, this isn’t a proselytizing manifesto for either governmental process or libertarian freedom—Borgos’ portrayals are far too nuanced to fall into the trap of ideological partisanship.
A sensitive depiction of the power of both love and land.