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The beautiful and harsh terrain of Wyoming and the tough and often eccentric people who make their lives there are again on display in this collection of stories (a sequel to the much-lauded Close Range: Wyoming Stories). In "What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick?" Gilbert Wolfscale struggles with drought and debt to hold on to the ranch that has been passed down in his family for generations, driving off his wife and two sons, who have no interest in continuing the legacy. Many old-time ranch owners in this territory are women, and they face similar struggles: in "The Trickle Down Effect," Fiesta Punch hires local ne'er-do-well Deb Sipple for a long-distance hay haul, with disastrous results. Proulx does leaven her tales of hardship and woe with a dry humor, and she doesn't forget to tackle the misguided romance sought by newcomers to the land, as in "Man Crawling Out of Trees," in which a retired couple from the Northeast find that the quiet truce of their marriage can't survive encounters with the resentful locals. While none of the stories in this collection approaches the sweep and wholeness of "Brokeback Mountain" (the standout story from Close Range, and soon to be a major film), and other pieces are little more than whimsical sketches (sometimes with a touch of the magical), they paint a rich, colorful picture of local life.
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Pulitzer Prize winner Proulx wrote her first collection of Wyoming stories, Close Range, in 1999. The 11 stories contained here are of a piece with her earlier depictions of a hardscrabble state and its ornery, hard-bitten citizens. It's somewhat difficult to fathom the full nature of Proulx's popularity given her implacable vision of human nature as deeply flawed. In her stories, the humor is mordant, the landscape is crushing, and the people are taciturn. It may be that her odd, vivid language and her idiosyncratic plotting are entertaining enough to distract readers from the bleak subtext. Even when Proulx employs magic realism, as she does in three stories here, there are no happy endings--in "Dump Junk," a rusty old tea kettle, not an exotic lamp, grants its owner's wishes, two of which result in tragic accidents. In "What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick?" a rancher's steadfast dedication to his property and its exhausting round of chores blinds him to his wife's unhappiness with their life together. In "Man Crawling Out of Trees," a transplanted New York couple is alternately seduced and appalled by the starkly beautiful, alien landscape, which only seems to accelerate the dissolution of their marriage. Proulx's vision, like the Wyoming countryside she so meticulously describes, is unyielding. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.