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April book complete. May contain spoilers.

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message 1: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Wendt (wendtastic) | 354 comments Mod
So maybe we need to conversations per book - one for while we're reading that doesn't have spoilers and one for after we're done that can have spoilers. Then people can avoid the spoiler one if they want. Hmmm...let's try it. For "spoiler" comments, try unchecking the box below that says "add to my update feed" so it doesn't show up and inadvertently spoil the book for anyone - I wonder if that will work.

Deep Creek thoughts: I just finished this morning. Under the category of TMI, I typically only read when I'm "doing my business" but for this one I started carving out time each morning to read for half and hour to an hour. It's nice to have uninterrupted time, even if it's not for long. Right now I have a "reading chair" in my living room, but this weekend I'm picking up an old rocking chair I plan to set on my porch and it will become my reading chair. I think that would have been a more appropriate place for reading this. I kept feeling like I should be outdoors reading it, but it's still pretty chilly for that here. One thing I couldn't decide if I liked or not was her way of bringing together seemingly unrelated things - she's talking about restoring a cabin, then how much she loves kingfishers in the next paragraph, and it takes a little reading to find out why she switched topics. Sometimes I was like "oh, she's going somewhere with this and I can't wait to see where" and other times I was just getting into the original topic when she switched gears and I'd get annoyed because I wanted to hear out the first part.

Overall, I am not ready to review or even decide how many stars to give it. There were things I liked and things I didn't, and after I digest it a little more, maybe I'll know how to describe my thoughts. Two things I loved: First, the fact that I WANT to keep thinking about it, and second, that it makes me want to write. I have always liked writing and I did a lot of it when I was young. Over the last 7 or 8 years, I've formulated outlines for a few short stories I've thought I might eventually write and try to do something with. Reading this made me want to actually do it. I don't know why. Stay tuned!

message 2: by Jackie (last edited Apr 10, 2019 11:10PM) (new)

Jackie | 166 comments I stayed up late to finish. Probably won't show up to work on time.

I also can't rate this book. I liked it but didn't love it. I wanted to love it but can't decide why I didn't

I struggled through the fire part but then when it came full circle at the end I was less annoyed. I really struggled with the Pinckley history lesson which surprised me because I'm such a history nerd. I guess I just didn't feel that connected?

And I love animals and wild things/places as much as she does but I always find it difficult to relate to people who I feel are overly sensitive to death. It's sad sure but it's also part of all life. To see death caused by our humaness (like the whale or the elk in the fence) is upsetting but some of the other animal deaths that affected her I did not feel similarly. I can't explain why I found that hard to relate to or even what I'm feeling for that matter.... which, unlike you Tracy, is why I don't think about writing

message 3: by Jackie (new)

Jackie | 166 comments Also, oddly I sobbed at the Patagonian birthday cake.
I choked up at Fenton's gifted steak but bawled at the cake.

message 4: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Wendt (wendtastic) | 354 comments Mod
I like your review, Jackie. I felt the same way - the part about the elk they found annoyed me to no end. It's sad and an elk calf is cute, but leave it there. Always. A lot of death in this book. I kept wondering why most of the book was set in winter - maybe it's the most appropriate setting for the sad/introspective mood of most of the book? The part where her farm-sitter killed her sheep upset me. But she has virtual strangers watching her home for long periods of time and she's never home - eventually one of them was bound to end up untrustworthy. And it sounds like there were plenty of warning signs that those particular farm-sitters were not good - it sounded like they insisted she buy them all the stuff for raising chicks and gardening and some of those things sounded expensive. Before she even left them they sounded entitled and irresponsible, then she left all the animals she loves in their care. I kept fluctuating between "we all make mistakes, she just chose to share hers in this public way" and "she's a fool". The things that annoyed me about this book were the same things that annoyed me about Wild - a complete lack of common sense at times, then "wow, why did that happen"...BUT if I shared all the intimate details of my life, someone reading it would think the same thing. I could never write about my life or personal experiences. I couldn't bear to have them analyzed.

I loved the dog steak part. That sweet. I have no problem reading about the cycle of life when it comes to the elk calf or other wildlife, but pets...I know it's going to happen, but it makes me extremely sad.

The fire chapter. I didn't like anything about it at all. And way too long.

I loved the farm life descriptions - the little almanacs between chapters. And the descriptions of the mountains and forest around the farm. She has to be a badass to deal with a lot of the things she does alone, isolated, all winter long. I liked the chapter about restoring the old cabin.

message 5: by Sam (new)

Sam | 214 comments I'm about 40 percent in. I am enjoying the audio. The perfect company to my household chores and running errands. I don't want my comments below to make it appear I don't like the book.

I know I am writing a review before I'm halfway through the book.

I've been really struck with her honest portrayals of her parents and the damage done. I really liked her retelling her interactions with Cheryl Strayed, a Portland friend of mine before she got famous! Cheryl's experiences with her mom are so very different.

Here are my issues. I grew up rural, I love nature and the environment, and I am seriously co-dependent on my border collie Action Jackson. But I hate most books involving stories about dogs--too maudlin. Although I'm pained to admit I teared up over the Fenton chapter LOL. And it has to be really well-done nature writing for me to be able to stomach it. It's like bad blue grass music. There's just too much of it out there.

And then there is the romanticizing of the rural lifestyle. I especially loathe romantic writing about ranch life. Well, I hate romantic writing about logging culture since that's what I grew up with, but there is less of that out there.

I'm all for great writing that explores the beauty of rural living, ranching and other lifestyles close to the land. As long as it is also honest about, or at least touches on, acknowledges, the ugly parts of small town living, esp. natural resource towns. Houston puts a toe in the water here and there, and maybe she will do more in the second half of the book. But the book feels a little too much written by someone who only lives in the place half-time, and can escape it, and wants Creed and her ranch to represent the safety she didn't have in her family.

Most small towns have ugly underbellies. My logging community was full of alcoholism, domestic violence, and abuse. In small towns there is a culture of silence that must not be broken. My ex-husband got ran out of a small MT town for writing newspaper articles about the local cop sexually abusing underage girls. No one was supposed to acknowledge it.

I'd appreciate the essays exploring the beauty she finds in Creed and ranch life if she explored some of the less than beautiful aspects. One of my favorite essays about a ranching family is William Kittredge's Owning it All, a beautiful essay about his childhood on a ranch in SE Oregon, the beauty but also the role his ranch played in destroying acres and acres of vital Pacific Flyway bird habitat, and the loss of birds and wildlife Kittredge witnessed over his life time.

But maybe she goes there before the book ends?

This is an issue that sets me off. I've worked on environmental protection my entire career, fueled by the damage the logging industry did to the forests, rivers and families in my hometown. And I've worked on grazing issues too. So many times I've been frustrated by writers, journalists, the past editors and publishers of High Country News, who were good people, but grew up in NYC, not a western small town, and allow their romantic visions of what they want the West to be cloud their reporting, writing and editing.

I don't lump Houston into that category necessarily, but some of this book gets my hackles up just a bit.

Another writer who I love and gets the complexities, the beauty and ugly aspects of the West, is Wallace Stegner. Because he grew up in the West.

Sorry for the long post! And I am enjoying the book....just have a few issues, LOL.

message 6: by Sam (new)

Sam | 214 comments And the best book about where I grew up? Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey. Holy shit.

And yes, I have gotten to the part where she talks about environmental writing, nature writing. But it only made it more evident she didn't grow up in the West. And nothing wrong with that, but just tread carefully with the romanticism.

message 7: by Jackie (last edited Apr 11, 2019 09:39PM) (new)

Jackie | 166 comments Sam, the book is called "finding hope in the high country" you can't have a dark underbelly when you're looking for hope.....but I definitely hear what you're saying

message 8: by Sam (new)

Sam | 214 comments LOL. Yes. My problems with the book are right in the title. Books that explore the yin and yang, the complexities of rural life ring more true to me.

Again, enjoying portions of the book for sure!

message 9: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Wendt (wendtastic) | 354 comments Mod
I love this discussion. I feel like I've been pretty critical of the book, but I really did like a lot of it. But Sam hit the nail on the head that it feels like it's written by someone from "outside." It's hard to consider someone a rancher if they are never home. Even though her descriptions of ranch life somehow rub me the wrong way, I still like the image I get in my head of ranch life. Does that even make sense??

In one of the chapters she talks a lot about her environmental guilt - it would be interesting to get perspective from this group on this. I feel like I run into it a lot because I work with people in natural resources and environmental advocacy. I wrote an essay about this at one point and wish I could find it. In short, when do you feel guilty for impacting the planet by driving, flying, using plastic, not always recycling...She is sad and feels guilty about the impacts humans are having on the environment, probably more so because her livelihood depends on flying all over the country to give book talks and tours and to teach. But feeling guilty doesn't changer her behaviour. I work to improve water and land management practices, conserve resources, clean water, etc. I feel guilty if I realize I'm wasting water - a behaviour I can control - but I don't feel guilty for driving my car or flying. I wish we had more environmental alternatives to fossil fuels etc, but we don't. I'm as responsible as I can be, but don't feel guilty when I have to contribute to the problem as a result of living my life. I do my best. I can't decide what bothers me about her view on this - that I feel like she's romanticizing nature and realized humans have an impact on that, so she talks about feeling guilty but doesn't change her behaviour? Or like Sam says, this is where she seems like an east coaster, isolated from the real problem even though she's been a "rancher' for 20+ years (except for the six months each year she's traveling)? I don't know. It's weird that she feels guilty for having a barbed wire fence. Wild animals learn to avoid them. She needs barbed wire to be an effective rancher, but because one time a small elk gets stuck in it, she feels so guilty she's ready to spend tens of thousands of dollars replacing it with a different, probably less effective, type of fencing. I'm probably not verbalizing my thoughts here very well - it's been a long week!

I do really love that she paid off the ranch and made her payments directly to the seller and not through a bank. I can't imagine how great that would feel to hand someone that final payment.

Sam, you may not be that far yet, but at one point she mentions that one of her previous books was poorly received by Creede residents. I wonder if that's why she's portraying the town and it's people in a sunny light and not talking about the gritty aspects that are probably there...

I like bluegrass music - even the bad.

message 10: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Wendt (wendtastic) | 354 comments Mod
Sam - I read a book a while back about a young woman - or maybe she was still a teenager - who planned and built a log cabin. By herself or maybe her dad's help. I think it was in Oregon somewhere. I think I even read this when we were housemates so maybe we talked about it. Does it sound familiar to you? I clearly don't remember much about it, so I've been wanting to re-read it but I can't remember the title and it doesn't look like I have it any more...Help?

message 11: by Sam (new)

Sam | 214 comments Tracy wrote: "Sam - I read a book a while back about a young woman - or maybe she was still a teenager - who planned and built a log cabin. By herself or maybe her dad's help. I think it was in Oregon somewhere...."

I remember you talking about it! But I don't know the book. Might have to do some research!

message 12: by Sam (new)

Sam | 214 comments Tracy wrote: "I love this discussion. I feel like I've been pretty critical of the book, but I really did like a lot of it. But Sam hit the nail on the head that it feels like it's written by someone from "outsi..."

Yes, that makes sense. She'd lose her help and support in the town she only spends half the year in. But because she can't really write about real ranch life, I'm less interested in it. Would much rather read At the Lemonade Springs Where the Bluebird Sings by Wallace Stegnar, a book of essays that so captures what it means to be from the West. Stegner also had the experience of growing up rural West and then going to an elite college, kind of like I did. I read his essays when I was spending my very first year living in DC on the East Coast, when I first really grappled with how being from the West--and rural west--had shaped my identity. His book of essays, which I read taking the Metro subway to and from work, so resonated with me.. I should reread.

message 13: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Wendt (wendtastic) | 354 comments Mod
My favorite MT book by MT author is This House of Sky by Ivan Doig. I go back and forth on his fiction, but this autobiography us near perfect. I also like Kitteridge. I remember an essay called Drinking and Driving that felt so very Montana...i think I need to do some re-reading.

message 14: by Sam (new)

Sam | 214 comments Tracy wrote: "My favorite MT book by MT author is This House of Sky by Ivan Doig. I go back and forth on his fiction, but this autobiography us near perfect. I also like Kitteridge. I remember an essay called Dr..."

Yes--love that Drinking and Driving essay. It is in the collection Owning it All, which also has that essay in it.

message 15: by Sam (new)

Sam | 214 comments I'm listening on Audible in between my usual diet of podcasts. She is a beautiful, poignant writer in parts of this book, esp. talking about the connection between the love of her ranch and the lack of security she had growing up. I love those pieces.

But Good Good. I just suffered through the Fire section. None of it is new to me personally since I've worked on forest management/forest ecology. I'm sure it was an easier read--if it's done like a log or diary you can breeze through parts. And that can be part of the whole structure. But listening to it? What a slog! And the long description of her van ride to PDX by a less than capable driver went on for twice as long as it should. I kept wondering where her editor was?

message 16: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Wendt (wendtastic) | 354 comments Mod
I skipped a lot of the fire chapter and it was still painful.

Every time I feel critical of an aspect of the book I think of another thing I loved about it.

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