All the Land To Hold Us

Houghton Harcourt. Aug. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780547687124. $25. F
The fourth novel by author and activist Bass (Nashville Chrome) is a beautifully interwoven tale of the generations of residents living in and around the harsh landscape of Midland, TX. At its most basic level, the book is a grouping of life stories, including that of geologist Richard, who works for the oil industry and is in love with Clarissa, a young beauty dreaming big dreams. Then there's Herbert Mix, an obsessed desert treasure hunter; the widowed Marie, a woman seeking peace after years of harsh living out on salt flats; and Ruth, a gifted, isolated Mormon schoolteacher. The author brings to life the desert landscape and the heartbreaking damage wrought by decades of oil drilling in such descriptive detail the reader can almost feel the sun burning and smell the sulfurous ground water. Bass's is the type of writing a reader will linger over, rereading passages and savoring the lovely, lonely language he's constructed.
VERDICT Fans of western fiction and environmental/nature writing should especially enjoy this melancholy but moving novel. Readers unfamiliar with Bass should give this one a try. [See Prepub Alert, 1/21/13.]

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