Fencing the Sky: A Novel
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Fencing the Sky: A Novel

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  185 ratings  ·  36 reviews
From critically acclaimed author of The Meadow comes a haunting novel of the American West.

Circumstances spiral out of control when an accidental murder springs from the best intentions. With one man dead and another on the run, this is a story about violence and how it destroys lives when the land is at stake. This lyrical first novel--long-awaited by the many admirers of...more
Paperback, 276 pages
Published December 1st 2000 by Picador (first published 1999)
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Charlie Quimby
It's rare for me to finish a book quickly. Sometimes it's the author's fault when I don't but usually it's because I find other things to do. When I gulp one down in 24 hours, though, I give full credit to the writer.

In this case, James Galvin.

I'd been on the lookout for his THE MEADOW, so when I came across FENCING THE SKY in a used bookstore, I brought it home and got roped in immediately by the opening scene in which Mike, a struggling small-time rancher, lassos a rapacious developer neighbor...more
David
Not as good as Galvin's earlier work, 'The Meadow'. The latter has a more mythical, gentle quality. Don't get me wrong, this novel is beautifully written and does pull you into its world, it just lacks that mystical quality I came to so admire in Galvin's writing in 'The Meadow'.

Fencing the Sky is about the transformation of the West from an agrarian world inhabited by humble cowboys and ranchers, into an exclusive world of holiday homes for metropolitan yuppies. The author clearly highlights t...more
Ron
James Galvin is a poet, and his vision of the people who inhabit the land where this story takes place is also poetic. Instead of a straightforward narrative from beginning to middle to end, it intermingles scenes from the lives of several characters told in flashbacks and flashforwards, all sequenced along the spine of a single plot line that involves the pursuit of a fugitive who has killed another man.

The location is northern Colorado and parts of Wyoming extending through the Great Divide Ba...more
Linda
My mother would have loved this book for its quirky, individualistic characters and for the many geographical references to the Colorado/Wyoming border country she so loved.

I'm enjoying the book, however, the piecemeal bytes about the many characters and the disjointed time line bug the heck out of me. It feels like watching a two-hour collection of unedited, hand-held camera shots. I figured that by the time I was half way through the book, I would have begun to understand the cuts and to keep...more
Nicole
A modern western that shines a light at what exactly that means now. The main tension, as ever, lies in the changing nature of the landscape. There's a new type of settler - the 40 acre ranchette owner - at odds with the stewardship and recent history of the land. Only there's no simple blame, them being as much duped into their situation by developers and the larger American dream.

The novel setup mainly follows the horseback trek of Mike Arans after the mostly accidental killing of developer Sn...more
Peter Derk
This is one of those perfect books that makes it difficult to pick up anything else afterwards.

Though it's a novel, this is a nice companion book to James Galvin's classic, the Meadow. You could almost think of it as part II as the time is closer to the present, and the end of the Meadow, at which point open land is being parceled and essentially destroyed, is the beginning of this book.

The book has an almsot Edward Abbey feel to it in terms of the changing landscape and different groups fighti...more
Nicola
Not "The Meadow," but still a fine work about the West. And similar in that, though this book is much more plot-driven, it weaves an intricate web of times and connections. Can't help but relate this strange web of vignettes to a broken fence--I blame the evocative title, which, as I read, changed its meaning from, at first blush, a negative fence, to a more quixotic one: try as these ranchers may, they're losing the battle to keep their West intact, the one where good neighbors mend--and close!...more
Cody
A text about how lives are forged from the accretion of seemingly isolated events, Fencing the Sky is a powerful reminder of how land, in every aspect, dictates life in the American West. At the core of the novel is Mike Arans’s flight on horseback, the consequence of a mostly accidental murder. We piece together the larger import of the story via fragments of lives and actions spanning the fifty years prior, and in doing so we see not only why Mike was compelled to act in the manner that he did...more
Cathy
I had a hard time reading it, much slower than my usual reads. That said, I think the author does a good job of evoking the emotions in the book through his words--in that sense it reminded me of Blindness. I think this is a good book for someone who likes the western genre and non-chronological story lines with some political soapbox thrown in for good measure.

I loved Mike's story and had the book just been Mike's story, with some of his friend's subplots, I would have enjoyed it much more. I w...more
Dpdwyer
The author is a poet who lives along the Wyoming-Colorado border. This, his first novel, tells of the clash between old time ranchers and the new 20 acre ranchette weekenders. The characters are well drawn, the plot carries you along, and the ending is completely unexpected and believable. The story is told is short vignettes that jump back and forth in time. I didn't love this aspect but I may reread it at some point the better understand the chronology. The prose is tight and, for me at least,...more
Powells.com
What a great find! Fencing the Sky is a classic tale of the west. Those who enjoyed Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy and Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove will find much to appreciate in Fencing the Sky... but this time the story is a modern one. Here, people looking to escape the chaos of city life bring with them the development that ruins the peacefulness of the landscape that brought them there in the first place. James Galvin is first a poet, and it shows in this novel. His writing is beautifu...more
Scott


A story about the 'disappearing' West, though not disappearing, just changing. Built around a rancher who murders a developer in the opening paragraphs, the book is written in a series of flashbacks as it meanders to its conclusion. The main characters: rancher, vet, doctor, all have deep ties to the land. The developer is an opportunist, taking advantage of those who want to experience the West themselves. I must say that at first you are surprised the developer is killed, wondering why this w...more
Bethmck McKinnon
I read this when it was first published over a decade ago. I originally gave it 4 stars. The Meadow 5 stars. But I find this book about people ceding their hearts to a glorious, god given, but ultimately unforgiving landscape keeps haunting me. I have moved from an easy living, magnificent landscape in Oregon to the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. From 500 ft elevation to 5,800 feet. I am surrounded by stunning landscape, awesome critters and the ragged vestiges of people who have tried to "fence the...more
Kathy
Good story of the ranching area of Northern Colorado/Southern Wyoming changing from ranches to residential "40-acre ranchettes". The perspective of the men who were from the ranches was realistic, describing how they moved cattle in large, unfenced areas. Mr. Galvin described riding horses through the brush in ways that only a person riding a horse would know. The onset of a murder is an opening that keeps the reader very interested.
Micheal
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Virginia
This will remain one of my all time favorite books. There are many paragraphs that I reread to glean out the beauty and truth. The story is the story of changes to the land, progress and destruction of the old. The characters are archetypes that we all are familiar with, sculpted into living forms. I am so glad that I read this book. James Galvin is a poet.
Jo
Nov 06, 2013 Jo rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
For those who live in the middle of our nation and have witnessed the changes brought about by the oil boom or hollywoood's encroachment o urban development, this book will bring tears to your eyes and tug at every single heartstring you have. Galvin does a terrific job of developing a sense of place and I love his offbeat characters.
stellajames
Tremendous book. Stories within stories within stories, gasping surprises. I *loved* this book. What a (modern) western this is! I enjoyed it as much as I did Shane and Lonesome Dove. I didn't want this book to end. I loved the characters, I got angry along with them, sad with them. I rooted for them. Read this, read this. It's awesome.
Caroline-manring
I think I was able to love this book in spite of itself, and with the help of having read Galvin's poetry and The Meadow. The seams between poetry, nonfiction, fiction, and transitional voices are a little frankensteinish. Nonetheless, there's a deep need in this book characteristic of Galvin that I have a terrible stoft spot for.
Carol Crockett
This contemporary western addresses issues dealing with land use, boundaries, and development, including grazing & mineral rights, fence-out laws, and other problems that threaten today's ranchers. It is a novel about change, within and beyond a person.
Julie
This picks up some of the same characters from 'The Meadow', but stylistically follows the novel far more closely than 'The Meadow' does. There are some hokey bits, but the characters become gradually endearing, and the story makes you mad just often enough.
Robert Moore
Loved the descriptions and characters in this Colorado/Wyoming story that paints a vivid images of life in that part of the country. Jumped around too much from past to present and characters displayed limited dimensions. Good ending.
Sally
A good story, nicely told, but a little preachy. I can see why people who aren't allergic might like the rancher lifestyle, but to me it is an unsustainable idea not worth preserving. Kinda like the U.S. Mail.
Shelly
Picked it up in a small bookshop in Utah and couldn't put it down. Incredible story that follows a man and his horse on the run -- from a murder he couldn't help but commit, and his past.
Mary
I learned that strong emotions come over you even if you're a cowboy on the run and the description of the doctor's marriage comes pretty close to how I feel about mine. Excellent!!
Nathan
Very beautiful book. Galvin obviously has very little hope for the future of humanity. I tend to agree with him. Most of the people in this world seem contemptible to me as well.
Suzanne Stephens
Anyone who's spent time in the American west will relate to/love this book. Humourous, observant, quirky, touching, wonderful. Highly recommended to all.
Al Menaster
Kind of a modern cowboy story. I had some trouble with continuity, Galvin jumps around in time and with characters, which I had trouble following.
Melinda
I bought this because I loved (and recommend) The Meadow. This was good, just as descriptive, but didn't catch me the same way.
ccccurt Heimbuck
I love James Galvin. I'd give five stars to anything he wrote. It's not as good as the Meadow, but there can be degrees of five starness.
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