cover image Playing with Wildfire

Playing with Wildfire

Laura Pritchett. Torrey House, $18.95 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-1-948814-89-8

A Colorado town grapples with wildfires and the Covid-19 pandemic in the uneven latest from Pritchett (Hell’s Bottom, Colorado). The roughly sketched narrative begins with related vignettes, each containing a series of shifting points of view. In the opening scene, ecoactivist Gretel tries to shoo a deer away from poisonous flowers with a BB gun. Then Mariana, a neighbor, accidentally hits the deer with her truck, an event witnessed by Sherm, an unemployed bartender, who takes it home for meat. Other sections portray the spreading wildfire from the perspective of a moose, a mountain, and the town itself. Pritchett’s writing takes off in moments when the affinity between human and nature catches the characters by surprise, as when Norman is overcome by watching a hawk try to catch a sparrow, and Sherm, laid up alone with Covid, watches a mallard duck struggling to take flight and identifies with the bird. Too often, though, the project can feel indulgent and tedious, as in a 13-page section in which Gretel attempts astrological readings of the town’s residents. The various parts don’t quite cohere, leaving readers lost in the haze. (Feb.)