5 stars, rounded downI picked this purely because I thought it took place in Arizona and I ve always wanted to read a historical novel from the Arizona Territory days I have not read Obreht s prior book This one just never grabbed me Told from two POVs, Lurie, a wanted man from Missouri who becomes a cameleer, and Nora, a frontier woman awaiting the return of her husband and older sons, it was choppy and stilted Both are haunted by ghosts In Laurie s case, they literally make demands of him And his narrative is directed to the camel he leads across the west Nora holds conversations with her dead daughter I debated just putting this one down numerous times The pace of this book is as slow as a desert tortoise The story also meanders across time and place To be honest, I only kept reading because other reviews mentioned how great the ending was and it was worth finishing for the ending In a way, it reminded me of Lincoln in the Bardo, similar language and of course, the ghosts If you like that book, you ll probably like this one I didn t care for either I was an outlier on that book and will probably by on this one as well Also, I had to do some research, but it would appear that Nora s homestead was actually in what is now New Mexico, up close to the Four Corners While the author spends a lot of time writing about the homestead, she didn t give me a real sense of place Anyone who has spent time in NM and AZ knows how different the landscape can be and I resented having to research it to get a better feel And despite them being down to their last cups of water, huge periods of time pass when it doesn t factor into the story at all And how can there be mud in a drought Little things like that irritated me I did enjoy the story about the camels and their trek In fact, the relationship between Burke and Lurie was the one part of the story I did enjoy.
My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.
Highly recommended full review here T a Obreht burst onto the literary scene in 2011 with her debut novel, The Tiger s Wife, a National Book Award finalist and winner of the Orange Prize I thought it a remarkable first novel and have been eagerly and impatiently waiting for her follow up I never expected that the follow up would be a historical novel of the American West and I imagine other readers of The Tiger s Wife might share that surprise No worry, her reimagined vision of the western and a little known piece of history is stunning, the eight year wait well worth it The writing here is gorgeous, Obreht fulfilling all the promise of her debut Her description of a beautiful, but often unforgiving landscape is astonishing I felt the heat and experienced the thirst of the parched, drought stricken terrain Her imagery is nothing short of brilliant and so necessary in a novel that is as much about the land as it is the people As far as plot goes, to reveal even a little may be to reveal too much I ll only say there is a steady buildup of suspense, a sense of foreboding, accompanied with wonderful twists and surprises I was left dumbstruck at the end and any wavering between a 4 and 5 star review was determined in those final pages Obreht is simply a superb story teller and delivers a sweeping tale rooted in time and place and the ghosts of an American West I want to thank Goodreads giveaways and Random House for this ARC.
DNF at 30% It may be my reading mood, but I ve picked this up several times, and I am not connecting with the story nor the characters The story was just striking me as disjointed.
We were bound up, you and I Though it break our hearts, we had as little choice then as we have now This is one of those books that I ve been dreading writing the review for because nothing I say can really convey what makes it so great I like literary fiction, but it s rare that I will pick up anything that s straight up literature This particular book interested me for two reasons the historical, western context, and the promise of supernatural elements.
Inland doesn t disappoint on either front The story follows two main characters, Lurie of the Mattie gang, and Nora Lark of a small town called Amargo, in the Arizona territory It isn t until the very end that the reader comes to understand how and why these two stories are being told side by side That s all I m saying about that because it s just better that you know nothing going in.
This is a character driven story, with Nora s part of it happening over I think the course of one day, from morning to night She often reminisces on things that happened in the past, her relationship with her husband and people in the town, the birth and lives of her children, etc These parts can be very slow, but they all contribute to painting the picture of Nora s life and the people in it.
Life in Arizona isn t easy and every day has been a struggle There are a few supernatural elements to her story as well Her niece by marriage, Josie, is a medium, conducting seances with the dead, and her son Toby has been seeing a strange beast roaming their land Nora believes both things are just figments of wild imaginations And what did you ever learn from me save to keep to yourself, and look over your shoulder In contrast to Nora, we have Lurie He s a Turkish immigrant that is orphaned as a child and eventually falls in with the Mattie gang He gets on the wrong side of the law early in the book and we follow his story as he runs from Marshall Berger and from his past Lurie also has a supernatural ability to see and speak to the dead If they touch him, he feels their last wants, and they consume him as his own needs.
The contrast in their stories is brilliant Between the two of these characters, it s easy to assume Lurie would be the least likable, and that the reader would come to care deeply for Nora, the struggling, innocent , ranch wife But Obreht brilliantly turns this assumption on it s head by making Nora the unlikeable of the two She can sometimes be cruel to those around her, including her husband and children, but most of all her niece, and she holds some clear prejudices against the local native population Meanwhile, Lurie proves himself to be a man capable of caring deeply for others, and a man, maybe, searching for redemption The longer I live the I have come to understand that extraordinary people are eroded by their worries while the useless are carried ever forward by their delusions Despite it s slow pacing, the book is so hard to put down Different little mysteries are introduced along the way, while other interesting little connections and reveals are being made not between Nora and Lurie, but within the narrative of each of their separate lives Different story elements and characters in the story return at the most unexpected times, keeping the reader surprised throughout It s a dramatic story that feels perfectly mundane, and I m still in awe of it.
Lurie s parts are written in second person, though I won t tell you who he is addressing The writing itself is gorgeous It isn t as impactful as say, The Mere Wife, but it s emotional, and often left me feeling a little wistful By the end of it, I was in tears.
This review has probably rambled on for far too long already, and I haven t remotely done the book justice Just know if any part of this story or review appeals to you at all, it s well worth picking up and reading through to the end, where the reveals and realizations will surprise and haunt you for a long time to come Thank you to the publisher for providing an ARC for review.
5 StarsIt s been around eight years since I read T a Obreht s debut novel, The Tiger s Wife, but the fact that I loved the beautiful writing and the story had been enough incentive for me to request this second novel, Inland.
I m so glad that I did.
This story has a duel narrative, which kept me on my toes, and wanders over time, over centuries, and around the world in one of the narratives Over the course of a day in another narrative, traveling through time using memories revisited, times and places, loves and losses over a lifetime Through all of this, Obreht weaves this story of the early days of the Arizona Territory, 1893, with an enchanting sprinkling of magical realism, as well as a spiritual connection both of these two narrators have conversations with, and connections to the dead This isn t a carefree, cheerful read, yet it doesn t dwell in the harshness of these lives There is much pondering and wonderment of their surroundings, as bleak as they are, and through these we learn their stories Obreht manages to skillfully weave into this story the historical experimentation of the United States Camel Corps using camels as pack animals in the Southwest during the mid 19th century development of the country The US Army eventually decided to abandon this project, despite the camels stamina This added another layer to the story, but what I loved most about this was the vivid portrayal of the era, the landscape, and the memories of these two people, their stories, as well as their conversations with those who haunt their days and nights If there were brief moments while reading this where it felt as though I had wandered in the desert too long, the breathtaking ending is one that will remain etched in my mind Pub Date 13 Aug 2019Many thanks for the ARC provided by to Random House Publishing Group Random House You will argue with me, as your husband has, that you were all getting along just fine without me Raising up your corn and wheat and losing your children to heatstroke But before me, there was no aguajewhere a traveler could water his horses Before me there was no stage route, no postmaster, no sheriff, no stock association There was nobody in Flagstaff gave a good goddamn about bringing the law to this place People rustling cattle and people falling down cliffs and calling both an accident Before me, we were all the way Inland.
Turns out, I love a literary Western Blood Meridian, The Sisters Brothers, Days Without End , and following on the heels of T a Obreht s breakout success with The Tiger s Wife in 2011, I was surprised to discover that her newest release, Inland, is set in the American Frontier surprised, I suppose, because as Obreht was born in Croatia and set her first book there , the tropes and language of a Western might not have been 100% ingrained in her But not to worry from the stunning landscape writing to the natural, easy dialogue, Obreht captures time and place delightfully and as an immigrant herself, she unfolds an incisive story in which all the characters are immigrants either from abroad or those making the trek Inland, from the Atlantic states to the Territories Not to get political, but in a day where American citizens can be told to go back where they came from if they don t love America the way it is right now, this book is a well timed reminder that, other than the Indigenous peoples whom Obreht rightly identifies as tragic victims of Manifest Destiny , everyone who moved to the Frontier was an immigrant to a new land, hoping to wrestle its realities into submission to their own desires There are the requisite saloon fights and standoffs and bronco busting and also ghosts and visions and mysterious beasts these make the book feel like familiar Obreht territory and despite the fascinating and emotional plot to which they all contribute, the details serve a higher literary purpose as well I d say I loved this one Note I read an ARC and passages quoted may not be in their final forms I will endeavor to keep this spoiler free, because the details are so surprising They were all moving past each other, the mother, and the little girl, and the old man, too and it struck me, after all these years of seeing the dead, as I stood there holding your bridle and with your breath in my hair, that I had never seen than one at a time, and had never realized they were unaware of each others presence Suddenly, the gruesome way they had fallen seemed the least mournful thing about this place They could see the living, but not one another Nameless and unburied, turned out suddenly into that darkness, they rose to find themselves entirely alone.
Inland alternates between two narrators one timeline covering decades and the other just one day In the first, Lurie and his father are Balkan immigrants Lurie doesn t remember his homeland and his father died not long after they arrived in presumably NYC, so that history is lost to him, and us , and after the boy was orphaned, he had many adventures inside and outside the law , the recounting of which gives a fascinating overview of the Wild West and those who attempted to tame it Lurie also sees ghosts, and their aching desires can feel emotionally touching than the quotidian harms that a living body is subject to Through three sons and seventeen years of motherhood, shaving had borne out as the only successful campaign against lice, but its effects were decidedly punitive Toby looked like a deserter from some urchin militia, sentenced to bear the badge of his dishonor What if, this time, history should fail him, leaving him bald forever He made a sorry little man as it was too thin for seven, soft and golden and clewed up with doubt Prone to his father s wilding turn of mindThe second narrator is Nora a weather beaten, hard working homesteader who is left on a drought dry ranch in the Arizona Territories to tend to her family while her husband has gone off to find the overdue water merchant Down to only cups of water in their home, Nora is left alone to deal with a young son who s afraid of monsters, a ditzy and delicate ward who communes with the dead, a stroke struck mother in law who sneers from her corner, two teenaged sons who have stormed off in anger, and a squabble between neighbours that threatens the survival of their ranch all while parched and isolated and worried about what s taking her husband so long Man is only man And God, in His infinite wisdom, made it so that to live, generally, is to wound another And He made every man blind to his own weapons, and too short living to do anything but guard jealously his own small, wasted way And thus we go on.
Both timelines are taut with mysteries that take the entire narrative to unravel both timelines have their ghosts and both deal with the prejudices faced by immigrants whether they be limey carpetbaggers , small hirsute Levantines , bird boned blonds with Doric foreheads , or those Mexican nationals who suddenly found their homes on the foreign side of the border when it was moved south to the Rio Grande There are soldiers triumphant in their massacre of entire Native families, agents from the Land Office trying to harass widows off their land, kingly cattlemen, and miners with unlucky claims this is a true Western Touching and intense, with a fitting and fantastical collision of timelines, I found that the ending redeemed a third quarter slump, and I m left to chew over whether to round a 4.
5 up or down Up it is to five stars because I m just that sorry to have ended this read.