TALKING TO THE GROUND: One Family's Journey on Horseback Across the Sacred Land of the Navajo by Douglas Preston

TALKING TO THE GROUND: One Family's Journey on Horseback Across the Sacred Land of the Navajo

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Preston, who followed in Coronado's footsteps in Cities of Gold (1992), feels the itch for another rigorous, horse-borne journey -- this time through the sere lands of Navajo reservation -- and returns with pungent descriptions and curious encounters. Preston embarks on this journey across the Utah Strip of the Navajo reservation, from Navajo Mountain to Shiprock, at the suggestion of his soon-to-be-wife. It's a chance to knit her daughter more closely to Preston. That seems like a good idea to him, and he is also interested in following the trail of Monster Slayer, the Navajo deity responsible for ridding the earth of the enemy gods. The three undertake the journey at the pace the landscape demands: not exactly a mooch -- they have to reach sources of water at least every couple of days -- but not much more than a slow poke. They snake their way through a land of rimrock and butte, sandstorm and ungodly hail, a trackless place that still has the feel of wildness about it. This is holy Navajo ground; Preston approaches it with respect, always aware that this is more than just a stupendous piece of scenery (""a landscape of Zen-like emptiness, a great yellow plain bounded by blue mountains""), careful to insert the Navajo creation story and the saga of Monster Slayer into the lay of the land. Gathering together strands of landscape description, regional history, indigenous tales, ruminations on the Anasazi, and his new family's gradual union, Preston braids them into a neatly knotted story. Also woven into the adventure, giving it some needed buoyancy, are a clutch of artful characters the entourage meets en route. Many are Navajo guides required for passing through these parts, but there are also sinister types, mystics, and plain kooks. One tough journey, luminously remembered, pulled off with a combination of flair, grit, and good humor.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster