“Deep, true, achingly pure, as stripped of glamour and pretense as the beautiful desolation it describes. With an unflinching eye for the unsettling political and environmental issues of our time, Clarren captures perfectly the heartland of our country and the hearts of those whose old answers have suddenly failed them–they are all strangers to themselves, full of wonder and worry, wild impulses, inarticulate feelings. Kickdown is what life sounds like when we give up the search for who we thought we were supposed to be, and begin the search for our own true humanity.”–Karen Fisher, author of A Sudden Country, Finalist for the Pen/Faulkner Award
When Jackie Dunbar’s father dies, she takes a leave from medical school and goes back to the family cattle ranch in Colorado to set affairs in order. But what she finds derails her: the Dunbar ranch is bankrupt, her sister is having a nervous breakdown, and the oil and gas industry has changed the landscape of this small western town both literally and figuratively, tempting her to sell a gas lease to save the family land.
There is fencing to be repaired and calves to be born, and no one–except Jackie herself–to take control. But then a gas well explodes in the neighboring ranch, and the fallout sets off a chain of events that will strain trust, sever old relationships, and ignite new ones.
Kickdown is a tautly written novel about two sisters and the Iraq war veteran who steps in to help. It is a timeless and timely meditation on the grief wrought by death, war, and environmental destruction. Like Kent Haruf’s Plainsong or Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone, this novel weaves together the threads of land, family, failure, and perseverance to create a gritty tale about rural America.
Award-winning journalist Rebecca Clarren has been writing about the rural West for nearly twenty years. Her journalism, for which she has won the Hillman Prize and an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship, has appeared in such magazines as MotherJones, High Country News, The Nation and Salon.com. Kickdown, shortlisted for the PEN/Bellwether Prize, is her first novel. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two young sons.