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Painted Horsesby Malcolm Brooks
Synopses & Reviews
In the mid-1950s, America was flush with prosperity and saw an unbroken line of progress clear to the horizon, while the West was still very much wild. In this ambitious, incandescent debut, Malcolm Brooks animates that time and untamed landscape, in a tale of the modern and the ancient, of love and fate, and of heritage threatened by progress.
Catherine Lemay is a young archaeologist on her way to Montana, with a huge task before her — a canyon as deep as the devil's own appetites.” Working ahead of a major dam project, she has one summer to prove nothing of historical value will be lost in the flood. From the moment she arrives, nothing is familiar — the vastness of the canyon itself mocks the contained, artifact-rich digs in post-Blitz London where she cut her teeth. And then there's John H, a former mustanger and veteran of the U.S. Army's last mounted cavalry campaign, living a fugitive life in the canyon. John H inspires Catherine to see beauty in the stark landscape, and her heart opens to more than just the vanished past. Painted Horses sends a dauntless young woman on a heroic quest, sings a love song to the horseman's vanishing way of life, and reminds us that love and ambition, tradition and the future, often make strange bedfellows. It establishes Malcolm Brooks as an extraordinary new talent.
"Brooks's debut captures the grandeur of the American West. Catherine Lemay, a former pianist, goes to Montana in the 1950s as a young archeologist to survey a valley for signs of native habitation before the area is flooded by a hydroelectric project. Catherine fell in love with archeology while digging at Roman sites in Britain as a student, but now in the ruggedly masculine West, she almost immediately butts heads with her assigned guide, Jack Allen. She also falls under the spell of John H., an artist and lover of horses who leads a nomadic life in the badlands. Catherine's arduous search of the valley is contrasted for much of the novel with John H.'s harrowing life story. When the two meet, intrigue sparks respect, which eventually flares into passion. The middle of the novel bogs down with lavish description ('The tilt of the planet had outrun the legs of winter and dawn climbed early now over the wide lip of the world'), and the third act, in which Catherine's findings threaten the balance of money and power in the community, follows a predicable course. But on the whole, this is a debut that captures a spirit of a place. (Aug.) " Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Brooks delivers an authentic story, examining in gripping, page-turning prose what it means to live in the West....An outstanding debut novel that will linger in the readers mind.” Library Journal (starred review)
Set in an American West of the 1950s but carrying vestiges of the nineteenth century, and with Indian artifacts and the ancestry of wild horses going back even earlier, much of this novel, like its milieu, has a timeless feel....Though some readers will rightly find in Brooks theme suggestions of Jim Harrison or Cormac McCarthy, the lengthy wartime flashbacks nicely recall vintage Hemingway....Its vividly drawn atmosphere and strong characters will keep the reader engaged.” Booklist
About the Author
Malcolm Brooks was raised in the rural foothills of the California Sierras, and grew up around Gold Rush and Native American artifacts. A carpenter by trade, he has lived in Montana for most of two decades. His writing has appeared in Grays Sporting Journal, Outside, Sports Afield, and Montana Quarterly, among others.
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