cover image Platte River CL

Platte River CL

Rick Bass. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $19.95 (145pp) ISBN 978-0-395-68080-3

The characters in this impressive collection of three novellas are all outsized--in body, and in longing for the sanctuary and protection of love. Water is a unifying factor, a symbol of the free-flowing clarity and strength they aspire to achieve. The tales have an almost magical intensity, born of clear, supple prose animated by stark and startling imagery. In ``Mahatma Joe,'' an obsessed, aging preacher who has tamed the passions of the residents of Grass Valley, Montana, brings a curious salvation to the young woman who tests her physical strength as she comes to share his vision. ``Field Events'' introduces Paul Bunyan-sized A.C., whose muscular power moves him to dance in a field with a cow on his back. His mute need for love leads him to join the Iron family, among whom he learns to throw the discus--and much more. The protagonist of the title story is Harley, an aging former linebacker, whose visit with a former college buddy gives him a glimpse of the limitations of his body and of the elusiveness of human connection. Bass ( The Ninemile Wolves ) is known primarily for his lucid and lyrical writing about nature, and this collection has plenty of that--all three stories take place within a stone's throw of the Canadian border in harsh environments briefly made idyllic by warmer seasons. But what makes this a compelling book are his finely detailed, complex characters, simple men and women crafted with sympathy and understanding. Author tour. (Feb.)