Jan. 24 (1/26)

There’s something imminently satisfying about reading a book, being sorry to see it end, and then having it “stay” with you, in your thoughts and conversation and intention. Thus far this year I’ve encountered not just one but several books that brought me that kind of experience.

This week was no different. Short but intense, The Jump-Off Creek, another one by Portland author Molly Gloss (whom I’ll meet in April in Boise) struck me–again–in the way the much-longer Lonesome Dove did so many years ago in its portrayal of the American West and its “mythological characters.”

This time the story centered on Lydia Sanderson, a pioneering mule-riding widow who buys out a half-proven-up claim with a dirt-floor cabin ; there she’s surrounded by the woods, a couple of hard-ridden ranchers and a trio of wolfers, in Eastern Oregon.

At times it called to mind the memoir Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart, about her move from a job as a laundress in Denver to one as a housekeeper in Burnt Fork, Wyoming; she eventually married her Scottish employer, who wooed her by playing his “bugpeeps.” 

Both ring with authenticity of the incredible difficulties, both physical and mental, faced by any woman who sought a new start in what had been promoted as the promised land (but discovered it was something completely different than expected.)

In case you wonder about the post title, I’m writing this two days late — the weekend was spent with some old friends from Seattle in Park City where they performing with their band, Manooghi Hi (click here to see some press coverage and for a link to one of their songs on YouTube). Peter left for Philadelphia yesterday and I’m still catching up on all fronts.

But the second book of last week is next week’s selection for the Teton Valley Women’s Book Group , The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larsson. I’m only 200 pages in — and it’s much longer than we usually chose for book club, so will really have to set some time aside to finish it. The story’s a grabber though (I’m regretting that I didn’t pick up the third book in the series while we were in Italy in November!) and I’m totally into it at this moment.  Since my geography knowledge of Sweden is limited, I’m racing to the atlas every other chapter to figure out where the action’s taking place.

I also started reading God is Love, the essay collection from Portland Magazine edited by Brian Doyle (another writer I’ll meet in April.) Have a lot of reading I want to do before chairing that ICA panel!

I’m also distracted by the idea of going back to some favorites from long ago. At the thrift store yesterday I picked up an old hardback of The Winds of War by Herman Wouk (a literary epic long before it became a mini-series) and now that I’m going through this uber-Western phase, feel I really MUST read both some Larry McMurty and the Woman Homesteader, again. Wonder when I’ll squeeze those in???

Happy reading to all!

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