THE REST OF THE EARTH by William Haywood Henderson


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Turning Wyoming's Wind River Mountains into a shadowland where dream intermingles with reality, Henderson returns to the territory of his first novel, Native (1993), to follow a 19th-century loner in his quest for his own unique place. Even having already gone from New England to San Francisco by sea, young Walker Avary still isn't free of wanderlust, so he makes use of the new transcontinental railroad to seek his destiny in the unmapped wilderness of the Wyoming Territory. He resists the advances en route of a girl from Kentucky, then shares his trail briefly with a teenage saloon singer, a matchup that ends when the singer is forced to flee a posse coming after the horse she's stolen. Walker's search for the ineffable taking him ever farther from civilization, he finds a pristine lake in the Wind River high country where he decides to build a lodge for travelers. He also comes across an Indian girl, seemingly the last of her tribe, who shows him caches of food and furs, keeps him warm through a bone-chilling winter, and helps him construct his house, rock-solid and with an incomparable view. Walker's first guests in the lodge are cattlemen who've moved into the valley below, but during a night of revelry his Indian maid is raped and runs away. Persuaded by the ranch owner to stake a formal claim on his piece of paradise, Walker starts with him to Cheyenne, sharing a homoerotic moment with the man's teenage son along the way. A violent encounter in an Army fort sends Walker back to his refuge--where he finds still another young girl alone, who comes with him to share his vision. Plot details can't start to convey the hypnotic attraction of place in this walkabout through the wilderness that transforms near-random events into a mysterious evocation of human longing at its most extreme.

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 1997
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Dutton