LitPicks Book Reviews—March 2015

Theme—The Western, 21st-century-style
The Westerns of yore—cowboys, Indians, and stagecoach robbers have given way to far more nuanced stories. The vast spaces and endless skies are the same, but characters struggle with
complex issues of love, memory, and redemption.
Labels: A Lighter Touch


Etta and Otto and Russell and James
Emma Hooper, 2015
320 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
March, 2015
Funny, touching, and romantic are what come to mind when describing Emma Hooper's debut novel. Hooper has given us a story grounded in realism and a fable tinged with whimsey—and she skillfully blends the two to create a love story.

The story opens one morning when Otto finds a note from Etta on the kitchen table telling him not to worry but that she (at 83) has decided to walk across Canada to the sea. She's never seen it before, and it's something she must do. Thus begins a journey of self-discovery, three in fact: for Etta, Otto, and Russell, friend and neighbor. Oh, and there's James, Etta's traveling companion—a talking, singing coyote.



Black River
S.M. Hulse, 2015
240 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
March, 2015
No wonder everyone is stunned: this 30-something author writes with the strength and surety of a far older and seasoned writer. Black River is, in a word, gorgeous: and it contains a wisdom far beyond S.M. Hulse's young years.

The outline of the story seems straightforward: a retired corrections officer returns to Black River, Montana, to bury his wife's ashes and to confront a man who tortured him during a prison riot years ago. The prisoner is now up for parole.

But as with all good fiction, Hulse avoids the easy delineation of good versus evil. The line, she shows us, is never ever simple.



All the Pretty Horses
Cormac McCarthy, 1992
301 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
March 2015

Steeped in mythology—and at the same time a myth-buster—All the Pretty Horses has become a modern classic. As much a hero's journey as any in ancient mythology, it undermines the very myth this country tells itself about the great American West.

That old West is gone, McCarthy seems to be saying, and with it the ideals of cowboy chivalry—basic goodness, an overarchng sense of justice, and the freedom of self-determination. Even the vast, wide open spaces have been fenced in and oil-rigged off.

But young John Grady Cole doesn't know that yet—or won't accept it. And he pursues his dreams to replace what's been taken from him.

In progress . . .

See our Reading Guide for All the Pretty Horses.


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