Sister Coyote: Montana Stories

Mary Clearman Blew, Author Lyons Press $22.95 (220p) ISBN 978-1-58574-071-0
Women come of age on the modern frontier in this collection of seven linked works (six stories and a novella) set among the ranches, ranges, households, highways and snowstorms of Montana. Some take place in the 1960s, some in the '90s; several involve Laura, a Montana-bred attorney now living in Seattle. The strong, controlled tale ""Kids in the Dark"" depicts Laura in her early teens as she accompanies older boys on a nocturnal deer hunt and shakily proves herself braver than they are. ""Hunter Safety"" finds the adult Laura, now divorced, taking her teenaged son to a hunter's safety course and trying to come to terms with the brutal masculine world of her home state. Other stories have more complex structures and leave more (perhaps too much) work for the reader. The same could be said of the otherwise excellent, harsh novella from which the book takes its title, which links the gradual decline of a 30-ish woman to the life and fate of a young coyote. Divorced, depressed, harried and overweight, Beth Anne sinks into a numb despair, alienating everyone around her. Her plight is accentuated as she crosses paths with airborne pelt hunters, a hapless sheep rancher and a frightened teacher alone on a highway. Blew's well-received previous work includes story collections (Runaway; Lambing Out) and memoirs (All But the Waltz), also set in and around Montana's rough countryside. Aficionados of Rick Bass and Richard Ford will find Blew's mountain West settings familiar. Her focus on women, however, sets her apart. More attention to characters, less to stylistic experiment, would have made this a powerful collection. As it is, the narratives' many good scenes, compelling landscape descriptions and unflinching look at hard lives make Blew a writer to watch. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/03/2000
Release date: 07/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
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