A hard, unvarnished look at America’s west during this modern era of climatic change.
I appear to be making my way across the US as I read book after book concerning the middle regions of the nation – and let me tell you, the view is not a happy one. From Julia Keller’s horrifying, tale of the meth/opioid epidemic in West Virginia, to Stephen Markley’s book, Ohio, which examines the travesty of the “rust belt, I now have arrived in Colorado with Kickdown, a book that examines the hard decisions facing ranchers in America’s west.
When Jackie Dunbar’s father dies, she leaves medical school to return home to their family ranch. What she finds is a nightmare: the ranch is in disrepair and on the verge of bankruptcy; her sister is in the throes of a breakdown and everywhere she turns she sees the oil and gas companies raping the land. Jackie immediately begins work on the ranch in an attempt to bring it back to life. However, there is a “kickdown” at one of the gas wells nearby and Jackie’s world is immediately and irrevocably changed. A kickdown, by the way, is a build of gas in a well which sets off an explosion into the air which sends firebombs and noxious gas into the atmosphere.
Kickdown is the debut novel for Rebecca Clarren but it doesn’t read like one. The imagery and prose are intoxicating, the story is taut and vividly told. It is a tale of the growing economic crisis in the US and those who are affected by it most harshly – the people who have worked the land: ranchers, farmers, blue-collar workers. The book examines the tough reality of choosing between the land that you dearly love and the offers from corporations, gas hacks and others who have taken over the land in order to make a quick buck. Admittedly, I am not a fan of those who do this. However, Clarren walks a fine line of presenting both sides fairly well, perhaps too well for someone like me. I wanted more of a defining moment, a bigger stand against those who destroy the land; what we are given is, basically, what those who live in these areas are confronted with every day: a balance between loving the land and surviving. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book, I did very much, and because it is not polarizing I’m sure that it will reach a larger audience.
If you are a fan of character driven novels, those that are told slowly, deliberately and quite fully, then I’m sure you enjoy Kickdown.
Thank you to #Edelweiss, #RebeccaClarren and #IngramPublisherServices for my copy of this book.