A soulful memoir of prairie life. Name the heartbreak, and Linda Hasselstrom (Leaning Into The Wind, 1997, etc.) has faced it. Early on, her father, a taciturn and practical-minded Wyoming rancher, ordered her either to abandon her writing and take a $300-a-month job as a ranch hand, or get off the family spread and try her luck in the big city. Hasselstrom took the latter course, relocating to the prairie metropolis of Cheyenne and, as it turned out, eventually producing a distinguished body of essays and poems. In this memoir, Hasselstrom revisits her life on the ranch, a hard and unforgiving place where issues of life and death are never far away. In one chapter, she writes, for instance, of her pride at receiving a fine .22 rifle as a gift on her twelfth birthday, a gift that immediately had to be put to use against a sick steer and a family of barn-invading raccoons. “One by one, they put their paws over their eyes,” she writes. “I groaned, but I shot them anyway.” The epiphanies come fast and furious, as Hasselstrom faces the death of her second husband to cancer and the loss of her father, who, she discovers, had kept a memoir of his own, an archive apparently fated to have only one reader—his daughter. Having inherited the ranch from which she had been exiled, she closes her book by pondering whether she has any moral right to the land, inasmuch as she will have no children, has no intention of working the ranch, and has no real connection to it, for “everyone who ties me to this place is subsiding into the land.” Hasselstrom is a careful writer who reveals just enough of herself without falling into sentimentality, and her book is a healthy corrective for anyone who imagines that there’s anything romantic about the cowboy way of life.