All the Land to Hold Us: A Novel
  • All the Land to Hold Us: A Novel
  • All the Land to Hold Us: A Novel

All the Land to Hold Us: A Novel

by Rick Bass
     
 

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A strange and powerful landscape summons strange and powerful happenings

Rick Bass brings a lyrical lushness to the harsh backdrop of West Texas in his masterfully crafted fourth novel. All the Land to Hold Us is a sweeping tale of those who live on the desert’s edge, where riches—precious artifacts, oil, water, love—can all be

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Overview

A strange and powerful landscape summons strange and powerful happenings

Rick Bass brings a lyrical lushness to the harsh backdrop of West Texas in his masterfully crafted fourth novel. All the Land to Hold Us is a sweeping tale of those who live on the desert’s edge, where riches—precious artifacts, oil, water, love—can all be found and lost again in an instant.

Roaming across the salt flats and skirting the salt lake, Richard, a geologist working for an oil company, hunts for fossils under the spell of Clarissa, the local beauty who plans to use her share of their plunder to get out of small, dusty Midland for good. A generation earlier, a Depression-era couple, Max and Marie Omo, numbly mines for salt along the banks of the briny lake until the emotional terrain of their marriage is suddenly and irrevocably altered. The strange, surreal arrival of a runaway circus elephant, careening across the sand, sets in motion Marie’s final break from Max and heralds the beginning of her second chance. Consequences reverberate through the years and the dunes when Marie becomes indelibly linked to Richard’s own second act.

With a cast of characters rounded out by a one-legged-treasure-hunter, a renegade teacher, and an unforgettable elephant trainer, All the Land to Hold Us is a vivid portrait of a fierce place and the inimitable characters that possess the capacity to adapt to and also despoil it. The novel boasts all the hallmarks of Bass’s most enduring work—human longing and greed, nature endangered, and the possibility for redemption are all writ large on his desert canvas.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bass turns the bleak and peculiar landscape of the Texas desert and the oil that lies beneath it into a vivid canvas for a slew of intense, sometimes hallucinatory narratives that always bring his characters back to the land. The author creates a cast of characters linked by their connection to place as well as a careless, unreflective greed: Richard, the love-sodden, fossil hunting oil geologist, Max Omo's salt mining family, and the plundering amateur archeologist Herbert Mix all stake their brief, temporal claims on the hostile, strange territory around Juan Cordona Lake, but the alternately grim and dreamlike pursuit of the lost circus elephant forms the unifying center of the novel. A strong novel that spotlights what humanity does to the land without acknowledging its costs. (Aug.)
Library Journal
The fourth novel by author and activist Bass (Nashville Chrome) is a beautifully interwoven tale of the generations of residents living in and around the harsh landscape of Midland, TX. At its most basic level, the book is a grouping of life stories, including that of geologist Richard, who works for the oil industry and is in love with Clarissa, a young beauty dreaming big dreams. Then there's Herbert Mix, an obsessed desert treasure hunter; the widowed Marie, a woman seeking peace after years of harsh living out on salt flats; and Ruth, a gifted, isolated Mormon schoolteacher. The author brings to life the desert landscape and the heartbreaking damage wrought by decades of oil drilling in such descriptive detail the reader can almost feel the sun burning and smell the sulfurous ground water. Bass's is the type of writing a reader will linger over, rereading passages and savoring the lovely, lonely language he's constructed. VERDICT Fans of western fiction and environmental/nature writing should especially enjoy this melancholy but moving novel. Readers unfamiliar with Bass should give this one a try. [See Prepub Alert, 1/21/13.]—Shaunna E. Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA
Kirkus Reviews
Texas oil, contaminated water, the scorching sun over an arid landscape, a runaway elephant and a humungous catfish dwarf the human characters in this fever dream of an environmentalist novel. Like a more modern McTeague or a Cormac McCarthy parody, the latest from Bass (The Lives of Rocks, 2006, etc.) falls short of its epic ambitions. It begins in Midland with the relationship of unlikely soul mates: Richard, a geologist compromised by his association with the oil industry, and Clarissa, who finds and sells fossils to subsidize her plan to escape the region. Their relationship may be as doomed as their love is passionate, but "their hands clasped together, it would seem to Clarissa that she and Richard were emotionally in some similar place and time, and that for the time being that might even be how they preferred it--neither east nor west, nor past nor future." In contrast to the novel's prim evocation of "the interior acts of love," it reserves greater rapture for the life force (in the face of mortality) reflected in the landscape, "the thunderous force that drove the world, exceeding even the powers of gravity; as if longing were destiny, as if longing were sacred and sacrament, as if longing were holy, as if longing were as elemental a force of the world as magma or stone, or water or fire or spirit...." And so on. The novel expands to encompass Mexico as well as Texas and to include a woman transformed by an attempt to rescue a circus elephant, a young girl of unknown parents who is perceptive beyond her years, a Mormon schoolteacher, some evil oilmen and a variety of arts-and-crafts folk. It also includes cameos by the high school football team, which seems to have stumbled over from Friday Night Lights and serves as sort of a mute Greek chorus: "All of the players' faces would be limned with saintly agony, each of them pushing himself farther than ever before, entering each morning into a new country...." A touch of humor, even a little more dialogue, might have tempered the thematic self-importance.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547687124
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
08/13/2013
Pages:
324
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.06(h) x 1.18(d)

Meet the Author

RICK BASS’s fiction has received O. Henry Awards, numerous Pushcart Prizes, awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. Most recently, his memoir Why I Came West was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

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