Random. Aug. 2019. 384p. ISBN 9780812992861. $27. F
At 37, Nora Lark feels she’s become a hard woman from the impossible challenges over the last 20 years with husband Emmett, who has pursued numerous failed adventures. The year 1893 finds them barely holding their ranch together in the Arizona Territory during a prolonged drought. In search of their water delivery, Emmett is now three days overdue, and their two older sons take charge of Emmett’s newspaper while Nora runs the ranch with youngest son Toby; Josie, Emmett’s teenage cousin; and Missus Harriet, Emmett’s frail, elderly mother. No wonder Nora has intense conversations with her long-dead daughter, Evelyn. Over a day and a half, Nora struggles with Toby’s visions of a beast stalking their land, Josie’s séances, Rob and Dolan’s unknown fate following a violent confrontation, and a crooked landowner who claims to know Emmett’s fate. Running parallel to Nora’s story is one of the Balkans-born outlaw Lurie Mattie, who has been making his way west for the past 40 years. How he ends up in Nora’s yard roped to a camel is a most unusual, absorbing tale.
VERDICT National Book Award finalist Obreht (The Tiger’s Wife) suspensefully reimagines an extraordinary American West filled with larger-than-life characters, imaginary marauding beasts, and ghosts who commune with the living. [See Prepub Alert, 2/4/19.]
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