cover image Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3

Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3

Annie Proulx, . . Scribner, $25 (221pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-7166-7

The steely Proulx (The Shipping News , etc.) returns with another astonishing series of hardscrabble lives lived in the sparse, inhospitable West, where one mistake can put you on a long-winding trail to disaster. “Family Man” is set in the Mellowhorn Home for old cowboys and aging ranch widows, where resident curmudgeon Ray Forkenbrock shares memories of his father with his granddaughter and an eavesdropping caretaker; the secret he reveals gives new meaning to the word “relative.” In two demonically clever riffs on human weakness, “I've Always Loved This Place” and “Swamp Mischief,” the Devil, accompanied by his secretary, Duane Fork, must entertain himself thinking up new ways to bother the living and the dead, as temptation is no longer a necessary evil. Saving the best for last, “Tits-up in a Ditch” breaks new literary ground with the gut-wrenching tale of an Iraq veteran who returns to her family raw with grief. Pioneer homesteaders facing drought and debt give way to modern-day hippies trying to lose themselves in the vanishing wilderness and real estate developers out to make a buck—unforgettable characters in nine stories that range in tone from crude cowboy humor to heartbreaking American tragedy. (Sept.)