A woman homesteads by herself in eastern Oregon. There are the standard dangers, problems, terrors and tragedies. This is saved from being trite by the stoic and undaunted character of the woman. Gloss also avoids the usual romantic happily-ever-after with the man next door.
Gloss has used journals and diaries of women in the West in hopes to draw out some of the nontraditional women's roles in the West, "I hope their strong, honest voices can be heard in this book." Showing that gender roles weren't fixed as many choose to believe, we see Lydia doing hard, manual labor, and Tim cooking and doing the wash. Lydia, the heroine of the book, abandons typical women's roles in the very beginning when she picks up and moves West alone to start a new life. "I'd rather have my own house, sorry as it is, than the wedding ring of a man who couldn't be roused from sleeping when his own child was slipping out of me unborn."
Gloss attempts to break down the Western stereotypes for men. Tim and Blue are like real men we could meet if we were on the frontier, not larger than life heroes that commonly dominate Western myths. Unlike heroes admired for their independence, Tim and Blue are dependant on others and each other on the frontier . They become almost like children in their dependence on others, "He turned and looked at her, ducking his chin." Things don't come easily for them and they struggle like any human being would have, "Tim put the gun down in the mud and went, shaking, across the bloody wallow on his knees." Even being a cowboy is rejected in this book, "He said he'd seen years when a good cowboy couldn't by himself a job, but a good cook could pretty much always find work."
Besides narrations from characters, Gloss utilizes Lydia's journal entries to make the story more real, personal, and familiar. This helps us recognize and remember Lydia's real identity, while the central narration builds the events of her daily life in a flowing form. Dreams of easy success are shot down in The Jump Off Creek. Giving a truer picture of the West, The Jump Off Creek is not a romanticized myth of adventure and easy success. Gloss establishes a view that shows the desperation of lives in a West where there is nothing new and glorious to see and experience every day. We see the miserable and wretched hard lives that one might have encountered. Fantasies of ease and comfort in the West are gone in this novel. It isn't a fairy tale like the traditional Western, where the good guy always wins, and the hero can handle any problem successfully. This book doesn't contain a lot of action, but instead it brings out the monotonous daily life of establishing a new home in the West and centers on the domestic side of the West. Gloss tells us of the every day grind and challenges of lives where sometimes people fail and hours of hard work are only the beginning of more hours of hard work.