cover image August


Callan Wink. Random House, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-812993752

Wink’s accomplished debut novel (after the collection Dog Run Moon) explores the nuances of present-day agricultural life. August grows up on the family dairy farm in Michigan with his divorced parents, shuttling between the “old house” where his mother, Bonnie, lives, and the “new house” built by his father, Dar, with Bonnie’s inheritance. After Dar shacks up with a woman just out of high school, Bonnie moves with August to Bozeman, Mont., where August attends high school and has his heart broken after sleeping with an older woman. He spends summers working for his father in Michigan, and after graduating, August defers college (“something people do to put off actually doing something”) for a position on a Montana cattle ranch. Wink takes an assured, meandering approach to narrating August’s life, as August creeps toward adulthood through a series of minor adventures, such as mending fences, drinking at the local watering hole, and learning how to dance. Wink brilliantly captures the stultifying effects of small-town life and the tension between free-spirited August and those stuck in the Montana “suckhole,” concluding with a stunning, indelible image from August’s rearview mirror. Like a current Jim Harrison, Wink makes irresistable drama out of an individual’s search for identity in landscapes that are by turns romantic and limiting. (Mar)