cover image Cheap Land Colorado: Off-Gridders at America’s Edge

Cheap Land Colorado: Off-Gridders at America’s Edge

Ted Conover. Knopf, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-52552-148-8

In this impressively detailed if somewhat diffuse account, journalist Conover (Rolling Nowhere) embeds among homesteaders living off the grid in Colorado’s remote San Luis Valley. In the 1970s, developers lured land buyers to the region with promises of “Western Worlds... filled with spectacular sports and outdoor adventure,” and laid out a dusty grid of subdivisions on the prairie, but the developments never took off and power and other utilities weren’t hooked up. And so “into the great openness of the flats flowed not only those seeking freedom in a good way but those seeking freedom from their bad deeds of the past—or even freedom to do more bad.” Conover, who first visited the valley’s “prairie dwellers” in 2017 as a volunteer delivering firewood and other necessities, eventually bought his own plot of land, and draws intriguing profiles of his neighbors and acquaintances, including military veterans, marijuana growers, and a Black woman from Chicago who came to the valley to join an African nationalist group but ended up moving into town and falling in love with a white man. Vivid biographical sketches fascinate, but several narrative threads are left hanging, including the tensions between the off-gridders and longtime Hispanic residents of the valley’s towns. Readers will wish this intriguing snapshot had a sharper focus. Photos. (Nov.)