A Memoir
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A work that’s a powerful cross—part Loretta Lynn, part Thomas Wolfe.

Kim Barnes is a Pulitzer Prize finalist who has won and will win many writing awards. In this breakout memoir, a Lewiston, Idaho, girl comes of age by reaching for Eve's apple of experience, breaking away from a domineering, brooding lumberjackturned-truck-driver dad whose Pentecostal fundamentalism sees breaking curfew as a prelude to eternal hellfire. At the acme of nonurban life, high school graduation, Barnes, a voracious reader and a promising writer, doesn't pack a pen and head for the Coast but instead opts to follow her family tradition of being ``waylaid by wanderlust and alcohol.'' This harddrinking, chainsmoking, devilmaycare country girl square-dances around the theme of ``look homeward, angel'' by never moving out of her hometown. She also never stops looking for a lover who resembles her father—a consummate woodsman and hunter and not an insecure fisher of men. Barnes displays more expertise with hunting and guns than Hemingway, and more knowledge of sylvan botany and zoology than Thoreau. The lyrical cadence of her description is what truly elevates the memoir to literature: ``dreaming the coyotes outside my window, dreaming the river, dreaming a deer gone silent . . . so still the ravens gave up their vigil, took flight from the branches, and disappeared, black stars in the bluest sky.'' Dozens of achy-breaky affairs into her manhunt, Barnes finds a hunter and truck driver almost her father's age. Sadly, this Vietnam vet who sadistically kills animals is into watching her with other men and painful dominance. It takes too many years for her to stop standing by her man. Only at the end does she slouch toward the redemption of women's liberation, selfreliance, psychic healing, and family closure.

At its best, Barnes has given American literature its first cowgirl classic. At its worst, we have softcore porn for English majors.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-50228-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Villard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2000


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