Knopf, Mar 2010, $25.95
In Ishawooa, Wyoming Sheriff Crane Carlson finds the corpse of a teen amidst the wreckage of a meth lab at a time the stoic cowboy has personal issues. He has just learned what he expected about his failing health and wants to reconnect with his first wife who has remarried; not withstanding that Crane is married too. His current spouse Jean is a nasty vulnerable drunken pothead outraged that her husband is reaching out to her predecessor and not her.
Her daughter Griff the sculptor dropped out of her eastern college to return to Wyoming to care for her ailing octogenarian grandfather Einar Gilkyson. He loves her especially her devotion, but wants her to live her life as her health care graduate student boyfriend Paul heads to Uganda with or without her. Instead Einar asks his estranged lesbian sister Marin whose long time love just died to come to the ranch to take acre of him as he is dying.
Paul’s nephew ten years old Kenneth was abandoned by his New Age mom. However, rancher Barnum McEban raises the lad with tender love.
This is a well written modern day western drama of life in a small Wyoming town. Griff is the hub of the tale as the ensemble cast is a sort of no more than two degrees from her. The characters are too stereotyped, but they come together in stark environs as life seemingly tosses no hitters at them. Yet with all the desolateness of reality, Griff shines with a powerful caring energy while using the bone remains of animals as the objects of her art; metaphysically displaying life as a Phoenix arising from the Bone Fire of the dead.