In the lawless, drought-ridden lands of the Arizona Territory in 1893, two extraordinary lives unfold. Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman awaiting the return of the men in her life–her husband, who has gone in search of water for the parched household, and her elder sons, who have vanished after an explosive argument. Nora is biding her time with her youngest son, who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home.
Meanwhile, Lurie is a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts. He sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires a momentous expedition across the West. The way in which Lurie’s death-defying trek at last intersects with Nora’s plight is the surprise and suspense of this brilliant novel.
In long alternating chapters, Obreht tells the stories of the outlaw and Nora and, through them, tells a greater story of the settling of the West, the land of the Indian tribes and former Mexican territory, prospectors, farmers, ranchers, outlaws, lawmen, soldiers, the women who raised families or tried to.
Although many reviewers refer to this work as a ‘western’, it did not seem to be that so much as a historical novel set in the American west, complete with camels! It has a lot of the earmarks of Obreht’s first work, The Tiger’s Wife, which you can read about here. I think it is the kind of book you either love or hate. I loved it.