cover image Snow, Ashes

Snow, Ashes

Alyson Hagy, . . Graywolf, $15 (200pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-468-8

Childhood friends return from the Korean War differently damaged in Hagy's moving and stark fifth work of fiction (Keeneland ; Graveyard of the Atlantic ). John Fremont Adams, 64, lives on the 36,000-acre sheep ranch in Baggs, Wyo., where he grew up, though he retired his hook and sheep dogs four years ago and has since been living a marginally pointless bachelor existence. But Adams finds purpose when childhood friend C.D. Hobbs, who served with Adams in Korea and has wandered into and out of Adams's life ever since, shows up at the ranch one night in 1995. Both men barely survived combat at the Chosin Reservoir: Adams lost his toes to frostbite, and C.D., who had been weird before enlisting, emerged very weird and badly wounded. Adams, C.D.'s protector since childhood, makes a desperate and ill-advised attempt to restart the sheep business, sparking battles with Adams's retired lawyer brother, Buren, and impetuous younger sister, Charlotte. Hagy crafts first-rate prose—unsparingly raw and visceral with flashes of high lyricism—that carries the reader from the napalmed mountains of Korea to the vast pastures of the west. The inevitable but surprising conclusion will yank tears from hard hearts. (May)