On an isolated slope in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, at a place called Fitchet Creek, Calvin Teague lies dead.
Calvin is dead, but he wasn’t murdered. Pavelich’s (Our Savage, 2004) novel isn’t a mystery. It’s a literary study of the lives of outliers, a story of love, of sacrifice, of a man with a sense of responsibility as clear as the mountain air. Calvin’s car quit near the hamlet of Red Plain. No money for repairs, he’d set out afoot westward. But Calvin was inept in the wilderness, nearly drowned in a river, only to be discovered stumbling along a highway by Karen Brusett, a young woman near his age. Karen’s husband is Henry Brusett, a solitary man who found his worth in the hard, honest work of harvesting timber, work that stranded him in middle-age, fractured in body and personality. Addicted to pain pills and solitude, Henry cares platonically, guiltily, for Karen, not half his age, needing only “the favor of seeing her… of attending so closely to her existence as to know her shifting essence.” Karen, raised in an atmosphere of neglect and piety, latched onto Henry because he alone saw her as a person of value, of potential. Pavelich masterfully gives characters life: naive Calvin, dead out of misdirected desire; the damaged and mismatched Brusetts, wanting only the peace of their mountaintop Eden; Hoot Meyers, county attorney; and Giselle Meany, public defender and perplexed single mother whose dedication overrides ambition. After Calvin is found dead, Henry is arrested. The second half of the narrative chronicles his incarceration and Karen’s reaction. Marred only by one unresolved narrative thread, Pavelich's novel is an accomplished and affecting story of love and loyalty, accountability and honor.
The powerful concluding scenes race like thunderstorms across the Rockies in this arresting work.