cover image Holding Fire: A Reckoning with the American West

Holding Fire: A Reckoning with the American West

Bryce Andrews. Mariner, $27.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-358-46827-1

Rancher and conservationist Andrews (Down from the Mountain) portrays the transformative beauty and violence of the American West in this evocative outing. He moved to Montana as a young man just out of school seeking work as a ranch hand, and here details the brutal lifestyle he led in stark snapshots: discovering one morning that someone had killed several deer during the night and left them in a nearby field, fighting his distaste for hunting, and having to put down a sick horse. Andrews, whose father was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, eventually wanted a more serene life and moved with his wife to a farm in western Montana. His inherited Smith & Wesson revolver works as a talisman of sorts as he mulls over what to do with it, ultimately deciding to melt it down and refashion it as a spade to symbolically protest the Indigenous lives lost in the settling of the West. Andrews’s personal struggles are mirrored in his examination of the region’s beautiful if treacherous landscape: when he learned during a deadly summer drought that his wife was pregnant, he recalls, “Encountering that fear among our hopes was like finding a rattlesnake in the garden.” It’s a bittersweet meditation on the true meaning of the Wild West. Agent: Duvall Osteen, Aragi. (Feb.)