A sobering and obsessive but richly imaged family/self- portrait from Kittredge (We Are Not in This Together, 1984), scion of prominent tamers of the southeastern Oregon wilderness, who treats his legacy as more of a curse than a source of pride. From the iron-willed Kittredge patriarch, whose single-minded philosophy was to pour everything into the ranch he created, to his dissolute grandchildren who wanted nothing more than to sell it off and live on the proceeds, the author looks sharply at family personalities and disappointments and the tensions within and between generations. His father and grandfather developed a mutual hatred over differing opinions regarding the ranch, and the friction colored relations between his parents--as well as his own sense of identity in childhood. Forced early on to learn the ways of a cowhand, Kittredge opted instead for the tamer rigors of haying, thereby coming into his own in ranch routines as a field hand. The confusion of adolescence, buffeted by family dynamics, gave rise to a lack of fulfillment, resulting in a failed marriage and years of existential angst fueled by endless alcoholic binges until, from desperation and desire, writing was tapped as a likely career--a choice facilitated by the decision to sell the ranch in the mid-1960's. Oregon and ranching became Kittredge's past, and Montana and teaching his future, in which the necessary space and distance could be found to put a troubled life into perspective. Acutely perceptive regarding the relationship of a family to the land, but overly confessional and self-flagellating, with exquisite longings and a delicate vision heavily steeped in sentimentality.