THE PRAIRIE IN HER EYES

Ann Daum, Author
Ann Daum, Author . Milkweed $17.95 (220p) ISBN 978-1-57131-255-6
Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
Paperback - 248 pages - 978-1-57131-268-6
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Through a series of engaging vignettes, poetic descriptions and insightful character studies, Daum's memoir evokes the harsh beauty of life in the modern American West. Raised on her father's 13,000-acre cattle ranch in central South Dakota's White River Valley, Daum now breeds sport horses on the scant remains of her family's land. She fondly recalls her girlhood days spent riding across the vast property, marveling at the creatures who inhabited it. Daum never romanticizes her youth, however, delving into stories of sexual abuse, violence and casual cruelty, particularly toward wild animals. She remembers, as a small child, covertly freeing her father's pet coyote. A description of her summer job at a chicken research facility, where she discovered the limits of her capacity for violence, is particularly disturbing. Daum is deeply troubled by rampant, careless killing of coyotes, badgers, foxes and rattlesnakes. "My father's ranch is now a testament to the fact that cattlemen and coyotes can live in peace," she notes proudly. She deftly summarizes the differences between cattlemen and farmers, capturing the difficulties of a life ruled by the vagaries of soil and weather. Fascinated with unspoken subtexts, Daum relies on both actual accounts and symbolic references to explore what underlies experience. "I grew up looking down," she writes, collecting "glass bottles, left unbroken from the homestead days... until my talent for finding them became funny or meant something, or both." In this eloquent, occasionally disjointed first book, she reveals the character of the West and the changes it is undergoing. (June)

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