Thursday, December 10, 2015

American Copper by Shann Ray

I won a copy of American Copper by Shann Ray from The Quivering Pen blog by David Abrams. When his review of the book posted, extolling the beauty of Ray's language, I set it on the To Be Read Next pile. Abrams wrote, "If I said just one book can, however briefly, change the way you look at both the natural world and human nature--if I said all that, you'd want to read this book, wouldn't you?"

American Copper is a story of racism and the evil in men, and it is a love story.

In the first decades of the 20th c, automobiles are seen in the Butte, Montana streets but rodeo competitions still run the circuit. Native Americans and Chinese are considered sub-human, and gangs are free to deal out punishments to those who step out of line. Copper has made immigrant Baron Josef Lowry not only rich but the most powerful man around, his arm reaching to Washington, D.C.  He is obsessed with wealth and controls everyone in his life, especially his son and daughter. After losing his wife he commands his children to never marry; he needs them he says, and he intends to pass his copper mines and wealth to their care.

His daughter Evelynne is given everything she physically needs. Her father teaches her about the natural world and gathers her poetry for publication back east. After her brother's death, Evelynne's grief turns her into a recluse. Reaching womanhood, Eve longs to escape her ivory tower and searches for a man strong enough, or audacious enough, to stand up to her father and take her away.

The evil that inhabits men, and the capacity for love is explored in eloquent prose.

I am glad to have read this book.

The book cover blurbs include the marvelous Andra Barrett, whose historical short stories in Ship Fever and Servants of the Map I adore, wrote, "This grave, unusual novel unfolds with a beautiful evenhandedness, balancing the outer world and inner life, Cheyenne and white experiences of early 20th-century Montana.  Ray's feel for the heart and soul of Montana and its people--all its people--graces every page."

And Dave Eggers, author of the memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and  A Hologram for a King, called the book "Lyrical, prophetic, brutal, yet ultimately hopeful."

Others compared this first novel's writing to Cormac McCarthy's Cities of the Plains.

American Copper
Shann Ray
Unbridled Press
ISBN: 978-1-60953-121-8

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