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Where Rivers Change Direction

Mark Spragg.
Publisher Riverhead  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 8 x 5.05 x 0.8 inches
ISBN 9781573228251
Pages/Publication Date 283/2000
Daedalus Item Code 30307
This item is not available.
(Winner, Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award) In a voice that seemingly echoes off canyon walls, springs from the rush of rivers, and thunders from the hooves of horses, the author of An Unfinished Life here brings us a book as passionate and uncompromising as the northwest Wyoming wilderness in which he was born. This is Mark Spragg's memoir of a childhood spent in the teeth of nature on the largest block of unfenced wilderness in the lower 48 states.

"Here is a book for women to read to learn the hearts of men. Here is a book for men to read to curse what they have lost. This soulful book walks us to a place of restoration through the big wide open of Wyoming. Mark Spragg's words, his stories are a fine example of blood writing, every sentence alive."—Terry Tempest Williams

"Wyoming, land of wind and dust, of suicides, loneliness and fierce lovemaking, of uninterrupted vistas stretching 20 miles in every direction, of hard-drinking men and fighting women, forms the backdrop to Spragg's brave and beautiful coming-of-age memoir. Readers expecting a quaint, picturesque yarn will find instead an elemental, powerful confrontation with the naked realities of living and dying. Growing up on the high Yellowstone Plateau on the state's oldest dude ranch, a family business dating back to 1898, Spragg wrangles horses for his taciturn father, trying to win his respect and approval. At age 14, Spragg shoots and mercy-kills his beloved, aged, sickly steed, whose corpse will be used as bait for bears targeted by human hunters. The teenage Spragg joins his father on hunts, an experience he recalls ruefully (he no longer hunts, he reports, and became a vegetarian for five years). With self-deprecating wryness, the author, a screenwriter and essayist, re-creates adolescent crushes and hijinks. From quotidian events—communing with horses, attending a livestock auction—he fashions existential encounters with nature, self, fear, death, God. Composed in clean, crisp prose, his loping narrative is peopled with memorable characters, like his 40-ish mentor and bunkmate, John, a smiling, battle-scarred WWII veteran, or the mediumistic Greenwich Village waiter from India who tells Spragg, then 27, about his dead infant sister, reducing him to tears. Encompassing his marriage, divorce and remarriage, the book closes with Spragg's almost unbearably poignant account of caring for his mother, dying of emphysema and housebound on an oxygen inhalator. A piercing voice from the heartland, this resonant autobiography weds the venerable Western tradition of frontier exploration of self and nature with the masculine school of writing stretching from Hemingway to Mailer."—Publishers Weekly

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