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The Last Shepherd (West Word Fiction)by Martin Etchart
Synopses & Reviews
Mathieu Etchiberri wants nothing more than to leave his family’s Arizona sheep ranch and go to college, but his father insists that he take over the ranch instead. Then his father is killed in an accident, and Matt discovers that he is not the heir to the ranch. So he travels to the French Pyrenees from which his father and grandparents came to settle the questions about his legacy. Instead, he discovers a vast Basque family and a mystery that drove his father to America and still festers in the mountain village. As Matt resolves the mystery of his family, he also discovers his Basque roots and learns the nature of love of family, responsibility, and the tension between individual desires and the needs of a community.
Matt’s journey to manhood takes place in a vividly depicted landscape populated by lively, memorable characters. This is the powerful story of a young man’s search for an identity that encompasses two cultures and one complex, scattered family.
"In Etchart's novel, Matt Etcheberri faces a choice between toiling on the family's Arizona sheep ranch or pursuing his hopes of attending college. Early on, Matt counts what he hates most: 'One — I hated sheep. Two — I hated the ranch. Three — I hated my father.' But his father's unexpected death leaves Matt orphaned at 20 and unsure of his future. During his father's funeral, Matt imagines what his small community must think of his situation: 'He's the last Etcheberri — the last shepherd.' Matt is ready to sell the ranch when he discovers that someone else, who he didn't know existed, has inherited it: his aunt Isabelle, who still lives in his father's hometown, a small Basque village in the French Pyrenees. Matt embarks overseas to meet his relation, blithely unaware of what lies ahead. A strained family dynamic and the strangeness of the Basque language and customs at first stymie Matt as he attempts to unravel his lineage. But delving deeper into the town and its history, he starts to see why his father and grandparents fled. Etchart (The Good Oak) deftly captures the pastoral setting, elegantly contrasting this with the family suffering that Matt uncovers." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A moving coming-of-age story set in France’s Basque Pyrenees
About the Author
Martin Etchart is director of the creative writing program at Phoenix College. He has written screenplays and another novel, The Good Oak (University of Nevada Press).
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