One of the joys of being a bookseller is the pleasure of introducing a brilliant new author to the community. We were delighted to introduce Craig Johnson and Garth Stein before their superstar status and we are tremendously grateful to both of them for their continued loyalty and support. Carrie Le Seur is another talented author, writing about important subjects while letting her reader step into a grand story. We are honored to have her back on Saturday January 27 at 5:00 PM for a presentation of her second book, The Weight of an Infinite Sky.
Montana’s wide open spaces are beautifully rendered in this lovely story so evocative of the vast plains. Ranching is a hard life, with risks and harsh conditions, carried out by people who hold within themselves the heritage of their forebears who settled the land. They are people who prize quiet and privacy but will be Johnny on the spot if a neighbor is in trouble, ready to lend a helping hand. Threats to this rugged, individualistic way of life are changing the landscape. Coal companies offer generous buy outs to ranchers teetering on the edge. Family ranches, often surviving from season to season, find the next generation is occasionally not willing to commit to a life of freezing winters, hot summers, hard labor on those lonesome plains, with little financial recompense for their effort.
Anthony Fry is an only son, his father hopes he will take over the ranch, do his duty to the land that has been in their family for generations. Instead he bolts for New York, trying to make it on the stage. When his father dies, with his acting career going nowhere, Anthony returns to Montana, finding employment leading a creative summer camp in Billings. Another shock waits on the home front, his uncle, a man he has never liked, moved into the family home and is running the ranch for his mother. Struggling with having it both ways, Anthony wants his uncle out but doesn’t want to step into the role of rancher himself. Pivotal among their disagreements is Anthony’s vehement opposition to the coal mining that his uncle is ready to embrace.
La Seur captures the tension between the generations, the economic reality of a ranching community offered substantial sums to become a mining area, and the way a young man must decide if he will step into the boots of his father or forge a new path away from Montana. The scenes with the ranchers pulling together, their struggles, and their victories are inspiring. This modern story has all the passions and conflicts of its inspiration, Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
The Home Place, Carrie Le Seur’s first novel, opens on a winter night with a woman walking out alone into the intense cold, leaving her daughter behind in a house filled with drug addled men. It is the last time Brittany sees her mother alive. Alma fled Montana, left behind the tragedies and secrets, made her way through law school, and achieved success as a high powered attorney In Seattle. A phone call from the Billings police will challenge the careful life she constructed. Her niece Brittany is refusing to speak, her sister Vicky was discovered frozen to death not far from the house where her daughter awaited her return. When Alma arrives in Montana, she steps back into a landscape that speaks to her of home in bone deep ways. She is coming home to a place that is in trouble, her sister’s death is in question. Did she get drunk, fall, and freeze? Or was she killed? Secrets are held in her family, dangerous to the careful life Alma so conscientiously created. This great story focuses on the role of place in a person’s life, what you would do to protect family, and the dark secrets of the human heart.
Carrie La Seur creates fully realized, interesting characters and captures perfectly the vast, windswept big sky landscape of Montana. The setting is so well rendered, the reader steps into the story and can feel the bitter cold, the mournful cry of the wind, the immense spaces and loneliness. She does for Montana what Kent Haruf did for Colorado in Plainsong, both illuminate tough, kind hearted ranching communities, and the power a place has in the hearts of the people who live within its geography. The best writing has this power, to allow the reader to enter the story.
Refreshments will be served and there will be drawings for prizes. Sign up to attend this free event by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 541-593-2525 or stopping by Sunriver Books & Music.