Liralen's Reviews > Claiming Ground

Claiming Ground by Laura Bell
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's review
Mar 17, 2013

it was amazing
bookshelves: nonfiction, z-2014, reviewed, nature, reread-me-please

Some people, at loose ends, crave stability. A good job, with room for advancement. A steady partner. The rhythms of the life one grew up with. Bell craved wide-open spaces, and she let the American West embrace her and pull her in.

Bell was in her early 20s when she set out to herd sheep and do whatever else might keep her outdoors, in the isolated expanse of the West. Don't do it, her intellectual, white-collar family said. You're wasting your time; if you're not where you want to be at 50 you'll have only yourself to blame. And it's true -- come 50, she is not where she wants to be. But not in the sense that her family expected, and not, I think, with many regrets about her choices.

There are losses here -- sometimes small, sometimes on a heartbreaking scale. There are also successes, big and small, and joys, and at some indistinguishable point along the line the West becomes not just a thruway for Bell but a home.

That might be my favourite thing about the book -- how sweeping, yet specific, it is. Bell spends little time on her pre-Wyoming life, and she picks and chooses which parts of which stories to tell, and how, and when. She's pulling not from a season or a few years but from half a lifetime, and that seems to give her the distance to tell hard stories beautifully. (Sometimes with a little too much restraint? Read this article, but preferably after reading the book.) I don't give very many books five stars, but this one just kept taking my breath away.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
March 17, 2013 – Shelved
March 17, 2013 – Shelved as: nonfiction
June 5, 2014 – Shelved as: z-2014
June 12, 2014 – Shelved as: reviewed
February 8, 2015 – Shelved as: nature
December 2, 2015 – Shelved as: reread-me-please

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