cover image Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country

Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country

Pam Houston. Norton, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-24102-0

Houston (A Little More About Me), a professor of English at UC Davis, brings compassion, a deep sense of observation, and a profound sense of place to essays centered around the 120-acre ranch in the Colorado Rockies that serves as home base in her busy life of travel and academic commitments. Houston’s descriptions of ranch routine, which “heals me with its dailiness, its necessary rituals not one iota different than prayer,” leads her organically toward graceful, “unironic odes to nature.” Intimate but not sensationalized stories of Houston’s upbringing in an unstable suburban household with an abusive father and a neglectful, alcoholic mother set off her gratitude for an adult life lived in the midst of a sometimes perilous but beautiful landscape. “Ranch Almanac” entries that alternate with the essays offer delightful appreciations of the ranch’s other residents, including wolfhounds, lambs, chickens, and miniature donkeys; its human visitors, including her all-important “wood guy”; and the natural wonders visible there, notably including the Milky Way. Houston’s vision finds a solid place among the chronicles of quiet appreciation of the American wilderness, without the misanthropy that often accompanies the genre; her passion for the land and its inhabitants is irresistibly contagious. (Feb.)