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Weight Of Dreams [Hardcover]

Jonis Agee
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 5 1999
Twenty years after a bout of vandalism ends in the brutal beating of a young Indian, a young man returns to the sandhills of Nebraska to face his past.

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Product Description

From Amazon

In her earlier novel South of Resurrection, Jonis Agee seemed bent on refuting Thomas Wolfe: you can go home again, though sometimes it's easier not to. The Weight of Dreams finds her returning to the same thematic territory in a sweeping, ambitious novel about nothing less than good and evil, writ on a vast Western scale. Home, for Ty Bonte, is the hardscrabble Nebraska Sandhills, where he's been doing "a man's work" on the family ranch since the age of 8. Unfortunately, he's also been taking a man's share of punishment--his mother's abandonment, his father's abuse, even his own guilt over his baby brother's accidental death. Small wonder, then, that Ty turns into something of a delinquent, especially when he joins forces with Harney Rivers. Rich kid, sadist, drug dealer--"the boy who could put his hands on anything illegal"--Harney gets Ty into even more trouble than he could on his own. When they pick up a pair of Indian hitchhikers one bitterly cold winter night, the violence that subsequently erupts will change all four of their lives forever.

Twenty years later, Ty is living in Kansas, where he owns a small, hard-won farm and trades horses for a living. He's made a sober, reasonably successful life for himself, but is still haunted by the repercussions of his past--which include an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Then one day Ty picks up a mysterious woman named Dakota along with a load of horses, and the past comes knocking on his door in the form of Harney Rivers. Before the novel is through, Ty will have to make amends for the crimes of his youth--and in the process, redefine what it means to go home. Gritty depictions of ranch life; lyrical evocations of the stark Nebraska landscape; a romance that feels both passionate and true: there is much to admire here, even when the entire package feels somewhat overlong. For one thing, Agee evokes the horse life so vividly that you can practically smell it--and among her characters, only the impossibly evil Harney comes off as less than true-to-life. In the end, flaws like these count for little when weighed against Agee's vivid portrait of place. --Chloe Byrne

From Publishers Weekly

Though Agee's fourth novel is oddly book-ended between two courtroom scenes, its strength is in what lies betweenA its depiction of the landscape of the Nebraska Sand Hills country, the unforgiving weather, the gritty demands of ranching andthe relationships forged between people and the animals they care for. In 1975, teenage Ty Bonte's family has been ravaged by the accidental death of his little brother. Ty is brutalized by his drunken father and unloved by his pious mother. Moreover, he keeps bad company; his villainous chum, Harney Rivers, is a small town rich boy whose cruel exploits continually go unpunished. One night, Ty and Harney beat two drunken Indian men and leave them for dead; the men survive only because Ty goes back to save them, before fleeing the state. This event is reconstructed in flashback; most of the book takes place 22 years later, when Ty is a horse trader, living modestly in Kansas. Harney, now a prosperous banker in their old Nebraska town, reenters his old buddy's life, killing Ty's beloved horse and stealing the rest of his stable, savagely beating Ty, and threatening Dakota, the woman with whom Ty has established a promising though uncertain relationship. Ty and Dakota return to Ty's family ranch, where his father is dying of emphysema and his mother is still priggish and cold. The families of the brutalized Indians seek justice, if not revenge, and Ty stands to lose everything: his woman, his ranch, his freedom. This tale of a sympathetic but busted-up man is compelling, but here the narrative suddenly diffuses, weighted down with too many characters who engage in endless machinations either to save Ty or to hurt him. Agee (Strange Angels) is best in engaging the drama of the rugged countryside. In tying up the plot, her direction scatters and each ambitious subplot grows broad and thin, diminishing the central struggle. Agent, Emma Sweeney. Author tour. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Sandhills noir. . . July 5 2004
Format:Paperback
This book had me staying up more than a couple nights way past my bedtime, unable to put it down. It's really several books wrapped into one. On different levels it is a crime fiction story leading to a courtroom drama, a bitter family melodrama, an unsettling look into the shady side of horse shows, a detailed account of cattle ranching through a storm-driven winter, a tale of guilt and personal salvation, a passionate and sensual love story, a travelogue portraying the stark beauty of the Nebraska Sandhills, an examination of race relations (white and Native American), and a story of hanging onto a family ranch on the edge of bankruptcy.
The author sustains all these threads by interconnecting them with considerable suspense and tension. It's like film noir - dark, brooding, always on the verge of violence or mischance. And under that interplay of tensions is a moral vision that seems often at the point of being lost completely.
Agee populates her novel with a large cast of characters, using shifting points of view to explore their unfolding relationships and internal lives. With the focus of a short-story writer, she introduces and opens up incidents that seem to bring the narrative almost to a stop, while we wait to learn how these scenes take their place in the larger picture embracing all of them. While some readers may find the pace of the novel somewhat slow because of this, I was fascinated by the richness of detail and would have been happy for even more, especially exploring the resolution of the central conflict of the narrative - between its protagonist, Ty Bonte, and his nemesis, Harney Rivers.
I'm happy to recommend this book. Like other reviewers familiar with the terrain and seasons of the Nebraska Sandhills, I was pleased to see this rolling region of the Great Plains and its people represented so faithfully and in an engaging story told by a gifted writer.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Weight of Dreams June 30 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
A wonderful book that starts out slow, then hauls you so into it you can't put it down. Strong characterization...you just get the whole thing in your mind and they are so real. If you want a good read, I recomend this book. You won't be disappointed!
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Format:Paperback
I was born in NE, lived there, then in other remote ranching areas. The people, times, and conditions that are masterfully described in this book are what it is all about. I doubt that those who have lived their lives in cities, on lots, among throngs of people, and within the mainstream of the American culture, can fully realize the truth and character of this story and work. I probably see these people and events through a different window than the author, but she has captured their essence. Read it and live the special life of those who look across rolling hills of nothingness and see everything!
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Format:Paperback
This is the first time I've read, The Weight Of Dreams, or anything by this author. She's managed to put together a powerful, passionate, story; which could make a good movie. Her characters are strong and leave the reader "choosing sides" immediately. (That is, for Ty Bonte, and against Harney Rivers.) I believe I'd like to try her other novels. I wonder if she would write a "follow up" book, to explore if Ty and Dakota got married. I'd also recommend A Thousand Country Roads.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Hills Sept. 20 2001
By rds
Format:Paperback
To those who know them, Nebraska's Sandhills are often just the "hills." To those who do not, this is the best cattle ranching country in America, and Agee's novel captures the essence of this unique land, its people, culture, and traditions. The story is of an abused son, his hard and often cruel father, his distant mother, a woman who loves him, and of the son's personal demons, past sins, and ultimate redemption by his simple but fundamental goodness. The stark beauty of the rolling grassland, the relationship between men and women and their horses, ranchers and their land and livestock, and the growth of love between the two main characters, Ty and Dakota, is captured in detail, with emotion, understanding, and insight that makes the book a joy to read. Being a Nebraskan with five summers working on a Sandhills ranch as a youth, I was transported to that beautiful place where solitude and simplicity reign. The author's sense of place, knowledge of livestock and ranch life provide a wonderful guide for those unfamilar with this way of life and this region using the backdrop of a compelling story of the emotionally wounded "coming home." In a sentence, I loved the book.
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