The 2017 Omaha Reads book selection has been announced and this year Jonis Agee's The Bones of Paradise won. Every year or so there is a list of books presented and voted on. There will be a variety of events offered for readers to take part in and that includes an author talk next month, which hopefully I'll be able to attend. I have read Jonis Agee before (I think in pre-blogging days, so it has been a while). She is a local author and teaches at the University (not the same campus where I work, however) and her writing often reflects the local environment and history, and I have heard many good things about The Bones of Paradise.
I picked up my copy from the library and already two people have seen it in my hands and remarked upon it and how good the story is.
"A kaleidoscopic portrait of misfits, schemers, chancers, and dreamers, Jonis Agee’s bold novel is a panorama of America at the dawn of a new century. A beautiful evocation of this magnificent, blood-soaked land—its sweeping prairies, seas of golden grass, and sandy hills, all at the mercy of two unpredictable and terrifying forces, weather and lawlessness—and the durable men and women who dared to tame it. Intimate and epic, The Bones of Paradise is a remarkable achievement: a mystery, a tragedy, a romance, and an unflagging exploration of the beauty and brutality, tenderness and cruelty that defined the settling of the American West."
I have never properly visited the Nebraska Sandhills, but I think they are a really beautiful and unique geographic region, and I won't even begin to tell you how much I think the Keystone Pipeline that is proposed to run through this area is a really, really, bad (and terribly sad) idea. It would be wonderful to take a little field trip there after I read the book, but I might have to simply content myself with looking and visiting virtually and through the pages of a book.
A little taste from the opening pages. A rancher, J.B. Bennett, (no spoiler as this is noted in the jacket blurb) is about to be murdered, but here he is reflecting on the land.
"A new patch of low-lying prickly pear cactus had sprung up beyond the windmill and water tank. He'd have the men dig it out. It was a constant battle to hand on to the grass, the only thing to support the cattle that made his living. A person had to keep his eye on the smallest detail while the vast emptiness constantly tugged at his vision. You can get lost in a heartbeat out here, he'd told his wife. It took him most of his life to realize the significance of his own words. For some reason this morning every little thought was like a handful of nettles, singing and chiding him as he tried to drop it and move past."