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 Immensely powerful first novel set in 1980 Wyoming, reminiscent, in its originality, of Steinbeck and Faulkner's debut efforts. The story's centerpiece may go down as one of the more memorable moments in modern American literature, on a par with the arrival of Flem Snopes's spotted horses in Varner's Crossroads, or Lennie's request to George to ``Tell me about the rabbits.'' Grant's tale is, at heart, about imprisonment in, and escape from, the obsessions and dreams of our elders. Six-year-old Sarah Brothers, who keeps a deer mouse as a pet, lives on a ranch in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her grandfather Tom Brothers, her father TJ, her mother Karen, her older half-brother Owen, and Frank, a ranch-hand with an eye for Karen. The ranch is sinking under a great burden of debt: Just making it break even, short of a miracle, seems increasingly impossible. Tom inherited the ranch from his father, and TJ will inherit it from Tom, and of a certainty will not be able to make it pay. Even so, these men put in 20-hour days with their cattle, try to raise hay from ruined earth, fight the weather, battle to keep their pens together and hold the bank at bay. Tragedy strikes when Sarah's three-year-old sister Caroline gets bitten by a snake. But despite staggering despair, all pull together--and then things get only worse. At the novel's heart is a stunning depiction of disaster: The herd's round-the-clock calving season occurs in midwinter, just as the cows are afflicted by a lethal plague of virulent pinkeye. One calf after another dies in the snow, gets stuck in the breech, or tries to get born backwards. The exhausted family grows ever more desperate as, in spite of heroic efforts, even more disaster seems certain. Superbly drawn domestic particulars as the work ethic meets biblical despair.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-877946-84-2
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Permanent Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1997