I have chosen three short stories to review from this book. The first one is "The legend of Billy Jenks."
This short story is chalked full of historical reference. the author both romanticizes a small country town in Wyoming and made realistic observations of the past, memory, and how people choose to see life during hard times.
The story itself follows an outside "town" point of view of Billy Jenks. Billy was a young man born and raised in poverty with a father who tried to kill a rich man who slept with Billy's mother. Billy's mother took off when he was young and as far as the entire town new, never saw Billy again.
Billy holds a grudge against the town who made excuses for him and Pink, the rich man his father tried to kill.
This short story is about stories, the west as a culture, and how small town people embellish reality. Yet it holds the idea of truth always questioning why something is made into myth and set up for the reader to decide for themselves.
The second short story is "Winter Days Are Long." This short story touched me as a reader on an emotional level I wont soon forget. The piece is about an Indian girl, Virginia Sheild, who goes to college. Her professor asks her to write about specific things in her life like her best friend and her home. As she writes, the reader discovers Virginia as a person. She has lived through poverty, death, and truly wants her family to be proud of her as she goes through college to become a teacher.
Virginia's best friend, Michelle, is portrayed as a teen who is very pretty. Through out the story, Virginia writes of her more like a sister and blames herself for Michelle's disasters. Its a touching element for the reader which helps them discover more about Virginia as if she were a real person and not a character in a book.
The author did a wonderful job describing the places the narrator wrote about for class. The idea of a writer writing about a narrator who is writing for college about her life is powerful in imagery.
The third story, "Leave's End" had a tear jerking impact by the end. This piece is about a half Indian, John Runner, who serves his country in Vietnam. While on leave, John has to face himself and the place he grew up and make some difficult decisions about how his own life will go and how he feels about it.
The author did an amazing job at helping the reader connect to the main character. By the end of the story hope had peeked its head into the story. The piece struggles with Runners past, a brother who killed two people while drinking and driving. It focuses on Runner's present life before going to Nam by allowing Runner to face the life he might live. Then it focuses on the ideas people face about themselves and feelings of being trapped.
The story starts out slow then a darker tone takes over towards the end only to find hope rearing in the background and the story ending with a bang the reader wasn't expecting.
To sum it up, this collection of short stories would make a terrific addition to anyone seeking more than land in Wyoming.