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The Solace of Open Spaces

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  4,185 ratings  ·  361 reviews
A stunning collection of personal observations that uses images of the American West to probe larger concerns in lyrical, evocative prose that is a true celebration of the region.
Paperback, 144 pages
Published December 2nd 1986 by Penguin Books (first published 1984)
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
When I requested this title in NetGalley, I did not realize it was an older book of essays coming up for a reprinting. I actually have another book from the author on my "around the world" shelves at home - This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland. So she was on my vague periphery, but I was very happy to have had a chance to read this book, even if it isn't new.

In the late 1970s, Ehrlich travels to Wyoming on a documentary assignment. Her then-lover ends up dying, and she just stays and
...more
Dan
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A beautiful book with a great deal of thought put into words. The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Erlich is a collection of a dozen loosely connected chapters about the author’s experiences living and working amid Wyoming’s vast open spaces. The book was written in 1985 and still feels current.

The author has been fairly compared to Annie Dillard and Thoreau and at times her use of prose is pure poetry. She indicated it took her more than five years to write the 130 pages that comprise the book.
...more
Jim Ament
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays
The Solace of Open Spaces (1985), by Gretel Ehrlich

I recently discovered Gretel Ehrlich, not that she isn’t well known by others. The discovery merely reflects my ignorance...and yet, I get great joy from finding new food—someone whose words I immediately want to absorb. I found the book in a used book store. The title alone intrigued me—one who thinks that soul nurturing places, solitude and silence are the final luxuries. And her essays are about Wyoming, my neighbor state and our least
...more
Mark
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
“In the Great Plains, the vistas look like music, like Kyries of grass, but Wyoming seems to be the doing
of a mad architect- tumbled and twisted, ribboned with faded, deathbed colors, thrust up and pulled down as if the place had been startled out of a deep sleep and thrown into pure light.”

“Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are. We are often like rivers: careless and forceful, timid and dangerous, lucid and muddied, eddying, gleaming, still.”

“Ranchers are midwives,
...more
Bethany
Aug 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-bio
Set me in front of a western movie full of cowboys and other such stereotypes and I will be bored out of my skull. But, give me a book full of stories about real people in the real American West and I'm hooked. Whether it be stories by Bess Streeter Aldrich or Willa Cather about prairie life, or Ralph Moody's memoirs, I'm riveted. I've never understood it, myself, especially when it comes to Ralph Moody's books... but there is something about those stories that fascinate me like nothing else.
...more
Ron
Sep 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Well written story of personal discovery. Portrayal of Wyoming is very crisp. It is a place of grand horizons, in which one's own place is clear. The American West is a great place for inspiration. A place where physical and spiritual survival are essential.
Jamie
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you want me to read a book, naming it The Solace of Open Spaces is about as good a guarantee as The Sky, The Stars, The Wilderness.
Sarah
Jul 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Solace of Open Spaces, by Gretel Ehrlich, is a beautiful little book that I happened upon in the sale bin at a used book store. In the late 1970s, Ehrlich traveled to Wyoming on assignment for her work, and stayed because it draw her in in her grief upon losing her loved one to cancer. She lived there for many years, living and working on ranches, and this book is a collection of essays describing her time there and the feeling of living there. Her writing is lyrical and almost what I would ...more
El
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to El by: Diane Glancy
I picked this book up from the library at the same time as Islands, the Universe, Home, both recommended to me by my MFA mentor this semester. She has it in my mind that I will still write the travel memoir about Corsica because when I met her last year during my first semester, that was the project I was working on. And even though my project has changed and I am no longer writing specifically about place, she hasn't been able to let go of the fact that I might write about place. She suggested ...more
Christine
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
What an extraordinary woman, on top of being a great writer! Rancher, explorer, journalist, nature writer... a "culture straddler "
Bronson
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a beautiful book. It sits squarely in the middle of my favorite genre. I love her descriptions of the land, the weather, the people and the animals. It reads like a collection of essays, each chapter has a different theme and story and each chapter stands on it's own. It's a short book and it's one that I'll be coming back to. She talks about a part of the country that I relate to and I love. She's honest and writes from the heart. Reading her experiences touched my heart. If you like ...more
Emily Crow
Ehrlich writes poetically and conjures up a marvelous sense of place, but I never warmed up to this collection of essays about her time spent on a ranch in Wyoming. I think there was just a bit too much disconnect between the lyrical (and occasionally pretentious) writing and the harsh landscape and hardscrabble lives that she described. Worth a read but definitely not my favorite in the genre.
Rebecca
May 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: nature-y people, stressed out people
When Gretel Ehrlich's partner died, she left her furiously paced New York life and moved to Wyoming to become a sheepherder. Even if you're not ready to drop everything and tend to animals, this book is powerful—I felt the solace that Ehrlich describes, and the city around me dropped away to reveal the clear, open, endless skies of the midwest and the relief of honest, back-breaking labor.

Matt
Kerri made plenty of points more eloquently than I will (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), so I'll just say this: It could have been a good book, even a great book—if only it had been written by someone else. It just reeks of such an ugly romanticism that lacks perspective, ownership of privilege, a great deal of context...not to mention that it was poorly edited.

For all of those reasons, I'm both proud of myself for powering through this one and disappointed I didn't trust my gut
...more
Bethany
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love this genre (called what?): Beautiful prose, descriptive details. Deep thoughts, journal-like in intimacy and revelation. Absolute, pure love of a place, of nature. I love how books like this one transport me, make time slow, heighten the senses and fill me with gratitude.

I love her writing style. Her phrases are poignant, evocative. She makes Wyoming even sound romantic; the open spaces alluring rather than isolating. I enjoyed the people she writes about. Her respectful observations lend
...more
Betty Morrissey
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put it down, but finally did after 3 hours of straight reading. My antihistamine was kicking in and I didn't want to miss anything.
I wasn't making much progress because I kept re-reading - because of the beautiful writing not the antihistamines.

To be able to recount your experiences, relationships, and adventures and, to top it off, write them down like that? Perfectly amazing. Thank you
Kerri Anne
This book is a love letter to Wyoming and parts of it really sing to me. Of all the ruggedly handsome western states, Wyoming is a special place, a place set apart from most of the others in sheer wildness and expanse, and Ehrlich knows that better and more intimately than most. There's a visceral seductiveness to a life as rugged as one spent ranching, herding sheep, driving cattle, surviving the sort of winters Wyoming used to (and still sometimes) sees. There is surely and definitively a ...more
Gill
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
'The Solace of Open Spaces' by Greta Ehrlich

4 stars/ 8 out of 10

In this book, Greta Ehrlich chronicles her first years, starting in the late 1970s, in Wyoming, the least populous of all US states. She had travelled there on assignment for her work, and stayed there after losing her loved one to cancer.

This book is a collection of 12 essays, and covers many aspects of her time in Wyoming. I enjoyed both the level of detail and the quality of writing. Ehrlich's language is spare and poetic. She
...more
Chris Leuchtenburg
Jun 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature
Elegiacal essays about hard scrabble Wyoming, sheep herding and living in isolation. Short, evocative and poignant.

“‘I don’t know what in the hell makes those guys [townspeople and city-slickers] think they’re smarter than my horse. Nothing I see them do would make me believe it,’ a cowboy told me.” p. 63

“Because they (herd animals) have the ability to read our involuntary tics and scents, we’re transparent to them and thus exposed -- we’re finally ourselves.” p. 64

Stylistically muscular,
...more
Davis
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wonderful essays on sheep and cattle herding in Wyoming. Beautiful environmental descriptions and philosophical musings. Makes me want to go out to the plains. Highly recommended.
Christine Soskins
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: outdoors-stuff
This was somewhat of a let down. I read this last fall for a class and felt like I'd missed something so I wanted to re-read it. But, it just is not compelling to me. Ehrlich has some funny moments and some amazing prose, but all and all, I was indifferent and couldn't wait to get to the end.

She offers great insight into the "real" west. She tries to show the complexties of the rancher life and to break the stereotypes of "macho" cowboys. She does this by offering examples of their sensivity and
...more
Karen Waldron
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. But no matter how hard I tried to get through the whole thing it was torturous. And I love wide open spaces and solitude and nature. This book was so incredibly depressing. Bankruptcies, alcoholism, murders, and yes the stoicism of those who live in such a place was also a theme. The historic and continuing brutality of the ranchers towards anyone who gets in their way, their lack of respect for public lands, their overgrazing to fit as much cattle as possible ...more
Heather
Jan 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, sparse, poetic. Every page moved me; every word brought me into the gritty, bitter, romantic landscape of Wyoming, which I found was exactly where I wanted to be.
Xan Shadowflutter
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019_reads, nature
I remember driving to Vegas late at night years ago and seeing tumbleweed skitter across the road like arachnids hustling for shelter from the wind. There was only me, the road, my car, and the tumbleweed. Watching the tumbleweed elicited feelings of isolation and loneliness. This book is that tumbleweed.

Ehrlich lives (or lived) in Northern Wyoming by the Bighorn Mountains. To listen to Ehrlich the land is all grass and dust and vacant -- you can go months without seeing anyone. There's you,
...more
Trisha
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book on the basis of the title alone. It seemed to speak volumes about why we need to slow down the pace of our lives and pay attention to what we miss otherwise. Which is exactly what Gretel Ehrlech found herself doing in 1976 when she went to Wyoming on a documentary film project and ended up staying for much longer than she’d planned. This book is the result of what happened to her there.

Written in fits and starts as she puts it, the book started out as a series of journal
...more
Kazen
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ehrlich visited Wyoming on assignment and, while there, her partner died. She decided not to leave. Her essays are a thoughtful, deep, well-observed look at the life, places, and people of the American West.

First things first - you should know that despite being raised in the country I'm a city girl, happier in canyons of concrete than wide open spaces.

My mother is the exact opposite and would be most at home at a ranch like the one Ehrlich worked on, and Solace has helped me see why.

Everything
...more
Coyle
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A longer review to follow. But if I had read this book back in the early 80's when it was published, it would have been amazing because I was born in the early 80's. But if I had been old enough to read AND read this book back in the early 80's, I would have said: 'tone it down a bit, lady. You live in Wyoming now--leave the fancy words back in Hollywood.'
Kristina Harper
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-memoirs
This is a beautifully crafted collection of essays about Wyoming and the people who live there. Ehrlich came from the city but made her life in the harsh vastness of this western state until it seemingly took root in her bones. It seems almost like a lost way of life—and maybe it is by now, over thirty years after the book was published. But I hope not.
Chris Giles
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding. Finally, the lessons of impermanence taught me this: loss constitutes an odd kind of fullness; despair empties out into an unquenchable appetite for life.”
Christina Startt
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ehrlich paints a vista of a kind I've been craving lately. This was a pleasing, soulful read to be sure.
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500 Great Books B...: The Solace of Open Spaces - Gretel Ehrlich 1 8 Jul 25, 2014 04:03PM  

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Gretel Ehrlich is an American travel writer, novelist, essayist, and poet born on a horse ranch near Santa Barbara, California and educated at both Bennington College in Vermont and UCLA film school. After working in film for 10 years and following the death of a loved one, she began writing full-time in 1978 while living on a Wyoming ranch where she had been filming. Her first book, The Solace ...more
“Autumn teaches us that fruition is also death; that ripeness is a form of decay. The willows, having stood for so long near water, begin to rust. Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons.” 42 likes
“The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding.” 27 likes
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