STILWATER by Rafael de Grenade


Finding Wild Mercy in the Outback
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Rhapsodic meditation on country life by an American rancher in Australia.

When seasoned land steward and rancher de Grenade first entertained the idea of venturing to the Australian Outback, she was a restless teenager who quit formal schooling at 12 to work as a ranch hand in Arizona. A decade later, now “more at home in a sleeping bag under the stars than among people,” she spent a month touring Queensland, then traveled up to the extreme northern “gulf country” territory, settling in the remote Outback cattle station Stilwater. The author gorgeously recounts spending a dry season (roughly 5 months) herding cattle on horseback across the harsh inland flats, characterized by acres of savanna grasslands and a single daily tide into and out of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Initially tentative, de Grenade settled in with the population of the station—some gruffly distant, others amiable and happy to familiarize a newcomer. She provides a stirring natural portrait of her environs, profiling its tireless, weathered crew of cowboys and consistently marveling at the synergy of its operations. The author participated in the laborious, three-part mustering process to take livestock inventory, fished rivers with imperceptible currents and fully utilized the ranching skills learned from her past. She deftly weaves in geographical, ecological and societal history of the region and lyrically examines the same beauty found in the Outback’s deadly snake or the aggressive takedowns of bull-catchers. A friendly tour guide, de Grenade imparts sharp-eyed views of salty mudflats, of freshwater holes sentineled by crocodiles and her own adaptation to the stations she visited as her sense of identity ebbed and bloomed.

A vivid, sweeping chronicle of the Australian Outback, as told by a lover of the land and its native fauna.

Pub Date: April 15th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-57131-314-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Milkweed
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2014


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