26 Books to Read in 2015: #10

My next read for the 26 Books to Read in 2015 Challenge is lucky number ten!

#10: A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit.

Black River

A couple of years ago I developed an intense, inexplicable desire to see Montana.

I have no relatives in Montana.  I have no friends who came back from Montana and said, “Marie, you gotta go to Montana!”  I don’t hunt or fish or interact with bears.  I don’t know how to camp or to mine coal.  I am an indifferent hiker prone to falling down.  I have no interest in pronouncing “Butte” correctly.

Still, though.

I really want to visit Montana.  Look at their tourism website!  Everything looks so sweeping and grand and immensely beautiful.  A different sort of beauty altogether than what we have in New England.  There are two national parks there, Yellowstone and Glacier.

As if all that wasn’t enough, comedian Rich Hall lives in Montana!

Rich Hall

He coined the term “sniglet.” The more you know.

Until I can steal an Airstream trailer and go AWOL from the library for a couple weeks, though, I’ll have to make do with novels that boast a beautiful and evocative sense of place, like S.M. Hulse’s Black River.

This novel is about an ex-prison guard named Wes, who was maimed during a prison riot years ago.  When his wife passes away, he goes back to his little hometown of Black River, Montana, to see his estranged stepson and put his wife (and ghosts) to rest.

There’s a gorgeous emotional honesty to this character-driven Western.   Wes has a lot of past to overcome, particularly when the inmate who tortured him during the long-ago riot comes up for parole.  Hulse really gets to the heart of the old-fashioned Western–at their cores the best Westerns are stories about redemption, of strength in the face of adversity, and of setting an out-of-joint world to rights again.  Black River is about all of those things, presented simply and well and without a lot of drama and fuss (also like a good Western!).

A pretty good patch on a trip to Montana for now.

There’s also this, which has nothing to do with Montana but does give me a Rich Hall fix.


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