Reading Idaho 

Jackalope Dreams

Jackalope Dreams

Mary Clearman Blew

(University of Nebraska Press)

In a landscape peopled with train robbers, tourists, cowboys, conspiracy theorists, drug addicts and abused children, Mary Clearman Blew's novel Jackalope Dreams places us in the all-at-once-ness of 21st century Montana. It challenges us to deal with the myths that we perpetuate: We believe the West still contains sanctuaries of retreat: places to hide. Yet it is the cowardice of such surrendering thought that destroys these sanctuaries. The survivalist buys land to escape Los Angeles when, in fact, he is Los Angeles. The rancher believes his roots to be as tangled with the land as fescue, forgetting he, too, arrived on the wind as knapweed spore.

In the wake of her father's suicide, Blew's heroine, Corey, is too old and old-fashioned to give up her ranching heritage but still dreams of being an artist with the ability to imagine the world anew. These discrepancies—the horns sprouting from the jack rabbit—make this book a serious meditation on the West found in authors like Kittredge and Proulx. Winner of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum's 2008 Outstanding Western Novel, Blew offers a new way of imagining place while satiating our appetite for whiskey and saddlebags full of money.

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