A River Runs Through It meets Deliverance—sort of.
Marshall Tate has none of Lewis Medlock’s macho bluster—he listens to NPR and has been known to drink gin and tonics, after all—but he finds himself in a similar milieu: he’s discovered an exquisitely beautiful corner of the world, and unpleasant locals are bent on making his life there difficult. He has some of Norman MacLean’s pensiveness, too, which is a fitting enough quality for Montana debut novelist Hull, and some of MacLean’s penetrating eye for the landscape as well. Tate has come to his father’s little ranch to pursue a wild hare of an idea: formerly a river guide for well-heeled dude fishermen, he now wants to restore the spread to its former wildness, plant some native grasses, rehabilitate fish-spawning streams. It’s a good place to do the work, for wildness is all around, and biologists have even released wolves nearby—which proves yet another reason for redder-of-neck inhabitants to suspect Marshall and his pals Molly and Alton of being secret agents of the black helicopter crowd. Neighboring land king Bruce Klingman and his son Randy, who, Marshall assumes, “would inherit the Klingman ranch because he had studied his father’s politics and aped them passably,” are certainly suspicious, and they do their best to impede Marshall’s progress and that of the “woofs” alike. Local yahoo Ripley, “sort of a jackass around town,” is another obstacle until, well, he’s tended to in a moment that would do William Golding proud. What’s poor Marshall to do? Mess around with the rancher’s daughter, for one thing, which makes Molly unhappy but sets the ball rolling for a very nicely delivered moment of sweet revenge. In the bargain, perpetual adolescent Marshall eases into a kind of assured maturity, most everyone else gets what they want or deserve, and even the wolves make out okay.
A promising debut: rich in local color and uncontrived dialogue, with a plot that moves like a mountain stream.