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Showing posts with label isolation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label isolation. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A LIFE OF BRUTALITY, ISOLATION, & INVIGORATING ACHIEVEMENTS -- A REVIEW


Harsh ranching life is the centerpiece for Unbroken, a portrait of the daily struggles on the high plains of Wyoming.  We first meet Gwen Swan, and from her perspective, see the back-breaking work of minding the home, the children, and helping on the ranch.  Day in and day out, her world, along with that of her husband, Will, and father-in-law, John, revolves around the seasons and the tasks that must be completed.

I love this excerpt, which illustrates some of the struggle:

“As she washed the lunch dishes, it began.  A rattling in the highest branches of the cottonwoods.  A hissing in the tall grass along the riverbank.  And in seconds, the wind was in full roar, shaking the trees with a fury.  Gusts smacked the house in waves.  From somewhere—where did that sound come from?—came the high whistling shriek.

“Gwen dried her hands and went to the living room window.  Out in the meadow where they’d fed cows that morning, the wind wasn’t driving much snow.  Just the dry loose powder across the top.  No more drifting snow—until the next storm.

“But that sound.  It could go on forever.”

Nearby on a neighboring ranch, alcoholic rancher Mather has hired a young single mom, Meg Braeburn. Years before, she fled her family home to be with her boyfriend, whom she married.  But when the marriage fractures, she and her young son Jim must start over.  She believes that ranching is in her blood, and despite the grueling workload, she seems to thrive on it.

We alternately see the brutality, the isolation, and the invigorating achievements of this life through the viewpoints of Gwen, Will, John, Meg, and each of the children.  We also see how the connections between neighboring ranchers in these circumstances are vital for their survival.

When something happens to sever the fragile connections, everything changes.  But the struggles continue, the well-drawn characters’ lives are tested again and again, and when tragedy strikes once more, the universal challenges that face all humans and help to forge the common bonds between them finally bring them full circle.

Throughout this beautifully written story, I pictured the scenes, the characters, and visualized it all as if I walked among them.  Five stars.

***


About Jamie Lisa Forbes:

Jamie Lisa Forbes was born and raised on a family ranch along the Little Laramie River in southeast Wyoming. After graduation from the University of Colorado in 1977, she studied and worked in Israel for over a year and then returned to Wyoming where she ranched and raised a family for the next 15 years. After the family ranch was sold in 1993, she moved to North Carolina and eventually began law school at the University of North Carolina. While in law school, she started her debut novel, Unbroken. Unbroken won the 2011 WILLA Literary Award for outstanding contemporary fiction featuring women in the West. Ms. Forbes practices law in Greensboro, North Carolina and is working on a second novel.

JAMIE'S WEBSITE

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Mary Ann in Autumn: A Tales of the City NovelHanna's DaughtersMiss Hildreth Wore BrownElizabethSolomon's OakSolomon's Oak

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