Monday, August 19, 2013
Author: Claire Vaye Watkins
Originally published 2012
Now in paperback: August 6, 2013
Publisher: Riverhead Trade
The head-turning debut from one of the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" fiction writers for 2012.
In ten unforgettable stories, Claire Vaye Watkins takes on the mythology of the American West, fearlessly reimagining it. Her characters orbit around the region’s vast spaces, winning redemption despite—and often because of—the hardship and violence they encounter.
The arrival of a foreigner transforms the exchange of eroticism and emotion at a sex ranch. A prospecting hermit discovers the limits of his rugged individualism when he tries to rescue a teenager left for dead in the desert. Decades after she coaxed her best friend into a degrading encounter in a Vegas hotel room, a woman feels the aftershock. Most bravely of all, Watkins revisits—and reinvents—her own troubled legacy, in a story that emerges from the mayhem and destruction of the Manson family.
Like the work of Cormac McCarthy, Denis Johnson, Richard Ford, and Annie Proulx, Battleborn represents a near-perfect confluence of sensibility and setting, and the introduction of an exceptionally powerful and original literary voice.
This novel is filled with sharp, clear, sparse writing that is fully descriptive to the environment the story finds itself in without any additional and unneeded fluff. These individual stories about the "New West" are each easily absorbed on their own and form a lovely overall picture of the Western part of our country as it grew through it's adolescent rough patches during the early to late part of the last century.
These stories are all over the place - no specific theme or topic is held onto throughout. We have children of Charles Manson's clan, atomic bombs, runaways, "chicken" ranches, Hollywood and simple homesteads on the edges of the desert and the top of the hills.
One particular story that I found to be gripping was the gentlemen that finds another man's belongings in the desert. He has no idea what happened to this man but sends him a letter to the address he finds on the medicine bottle. Then another letter. This mysterious missing man becomes a diary and many, many letters are sent, detailing the finder's life, longings, fears and thoughts in general. A very interesting twist.
I highly recommend this novel.