Poet and short story writer Ray debuts as a novelist with a gripping epic of the Montana frontier.
Son of a poor immigrant Czech, Josef Lowry raged with a "hunger in him to break the world," but what he fractures is his children and all that’s worthy within himself. Montana’s copper brought riches and power to Lowry, who was known as the Baron. Tomás and Evelynne, his children, are property: guarded, directed, dominated. First meditating on the Sand Creek Massacre as emblematic of white-Cheyenne racial tension, the heart of the story begins when, home safe from World War I, Tomás dies in an accident. Evelynne turns recluse, Emily Dickinson–like, silent but for published poetry. Then two very different men come into her life. Zion is a sharecropper’s son and rodeo rider with a heart-ripping history of hardship. William Black Kettle is a Catholic-educated Cheyenne straddling Native American and white cultures. The prose is elegant, precise, and observant, as when Zion notes there are "only two races of men...[d]ecent and unprincipled." Ray’s story travels from the Tongue River in Cheyenne country to scabby little towns marring the vast prairie and then high up to the Continental Divide. With the Evelynne-Zion-William triangle of desire and despair, Ray casts an unsparing eye on the brutal racism of the American frontier and the dark hubris that made the settlement of the West both productive and destructive. Thematically, Ray fuses tragedy into rebirth, covering a timeline of nearly four decades in a narrative as natural, pure, and clear as water flowing from a snow-covered peak.
Devotees of the genre will find Ray’s lyric, often poetic saga to be equal to McCarthy’s Border Trilogy and Harrison’s Legends of the Fall.