"A deeply moving, gripping novel about one man's quest for redemption and his family's determination to learn the truth . . . Layered with meaning, this remarkable novel deserves to be read more than once. The High Divide proves Enger's chops as a masterful storyteller." -- Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise
In 1886, Gretta Pope wakes one morning to discover that her husband is gone.
"A deeply moving, gripping novel about one man's quest for redemption and his family's determination to learn the truth . . . Layered with meaning, this remarkable novel deserves to be read more than once. The High Divide proves Enger's chops as a masterful storyteller." --Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise
In 1886, Gretta Pope wakes one morning to discover that her husband is gone. Ulysses Pope has left his family behind on the far edge of Minnesota's western prairie with only the briefest of notes and no explanation for why he left or where he's headed. It doesn't take long for Gretta's young sons, Eli and Danny, to set off after him, following the scant clues they can find, jumping trains to get where they need to go, and ending up in the rugged badlands of Montana.
Gretta has no choice but to search for her sons and her husband, leading her to the doorstep of a woman who seems intent on making Ulysses her own. Meanwhile, the boys find that the closer they come to Ulysses' trail, the greater the perils that confront them, until each is faced with a choice about whom he will defend, and who he will become.
Enger's breathtaking portrait of the vast plains landscape is matched by the rich expanse of his characters' emotional terrain, as pivotal historical events--the bloody turmoil of expansionism, the near total demise of the bison herds, and the subjugation of the Plains Indians--blend seamlessly with the intimate story of a family's sacrifice and devotion.
"Lin Enger sets out from the conventions of the traditional Western and brings the reader into new emotional territory, that of the soul of an exquisitely drawn American family. Told with caring patience and precise language, The High Divide is a novel to get lost in." --James Scott, author of The Kept
"The High Divide, a novel about a family in peril, is haunting and tense but leavened by considerable warmth and humanity. Lin Enger writes with durable grace about a man's quest for redemption and the human capacity for forgiveness." --Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-07-21
- Reviewer: Staff
In this masterfully told Western reinvention of Homer’s Odyssey from Enger (Undiscovered Country), the year is 1886 when Ulysses Pope disappears from the family farm on Minnesota’s northern plains, leaving his wife, Gretta, and their sons, Eli and Danny, to fend for themselves. Eli and Danny hop a train west, following a meager trail of clues in search of their missing father. Gretta remains at home a while longer before going to see her sister-in-law in St. Louis in her own quest for answers. Gretta and her sons slowly uncover Ulysses’s dark secrets from his time in the Seventh Cavalry under Custer. The brothers head further west, through the Badlands and into the Montana Territory, eventually meeting up with William T. Hornaday, who has mounted an expedition to kill one of the last buffalo and put it on display at the Smithsonian. Eli joins Hornaday’s expedition, bringing him closer to a confrontation with his father and to learning about Ulysses’s troubled past. Set against a backdrop of beauty and danger, this is the moving story of a man coming to terms with his past. In its narrative simplicity and emotional directness, it is reminiscent of John Ford’s classic The Searchers. Agent: P.J. Mark, Janklow & Nesbit. (Sept.)
How the West was lost
Lin Enger’s moving and enlightening second novel resonates emotionally and intellectually on several levels: as an homage to the vanished American bison, a reflection on the forceful removal of Northern Plains Indians from their homelands and an engaging family saga peopled with characters who could have been this Midwestern author’s own ancestors.
The High Divide opens in the summer of 1886, when Ulysses Pope, husband to Norwegian-born Gretta and father to Eli, 16, and younger son Danny, abruptly disappears from their western Minnesota home. Shortly thereafter, Eli finds a letter to his father from a woman in Bismarck—so he and Danny hop a freight train west, following their only clue to their father’s whereabouts. Gretta, in turn, embarks on her own journey, “with two dollars left in her purse and not a single blood relative in all the North American continent—aside from her own two sons, whose whereabouts were unknown to her.” She instead heads east to St. Paul, the home of Ulysses’ sister, who shares details of her brother’s military years that were unknown to Gretta—and which may somehow be connected to his disappearance now, nearly two decades later.
Enger entwines Ulysses’ odyssey with the actual Hornaday Expedition of 1886, during which the curator of the National Museum in Washington, D.C., now the Smithsonian, sought to kill a large number of the vanishing bison—paradoxically, to stuff and preserve them for future generations.
Though the reader gradually learns the facts behind Ulysses’ disappearance, his ultimate search is for forgiveness for his part in what he now knows is the decimation of the Cheyenne, Crow, Lakota and Blackfeet tribes that were part of the land on which he was raised. Enger’s gripping story is a marvelous blend of strong characters and a brilliant depiction of a land and time now lost.