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The High Divide: A Novel

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“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. The High Divide is a novel to get lost in.” —James Scott, author of The Kept

In 1886, Gretta Pope wakes up 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 ...
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Overview


“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. The High Divide is a novel to get lost in.” —James Scott, author of The Kept

In 1886, Gretta Pope wakes up 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 heading. It doesn’t take long for Gretta’s young sons, Eli and Danny, to set off after him, leaving Gretta no choice but to search for the boys and their father in hopes of bringing them all home.

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.

“[A] masterfully told Western reinvention of Homer’s Odyssey . . . set against a backdrop of beauty and danger . . . In its narrative simplicity and emotional directness, it is reminiscent of John Ford’s classic The Searchers.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Enger’s novel is told in beautifully exact, liquid language that wastes no time, just as one cannot afford to waste time when making a journey such as the Pope family’s. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal, starred review

“A deeply moving, gripping novel . . . 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

“A gripping story with well-portrayed, complex, and sympathetic main characters and a complement of believable secondary figures in a vividly described region nearing the close of an era. Enger is an author worth watching.” —Booklist

The High Divide, a novel about a family in peril, is haunting and tense but leavened by considerable warmth and humanity. Enger writes with durable grace about a man’s quest for redemption and the human capacity for forgiveness.” —Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 07/21/2014
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.)
Review quotes

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

The High Divide is a deeply moving, gripping novel about one man’s quest for redemption and his family’s determination to learn the truth. Written with lean, crisp prose, Enger seamlessly blends historical events with the personal, and deftly pulls the reader into America’s Great Plains during the 19th Century. The narrators’ voices are captivating, and I was spellbound by the author’s ability to express the human condition and especially the complicated bonds between fathers and sons. 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

“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

Kirkus Reviews
2014-08-14
Set in 1886, Enger's novel embraces not one but three journeys that involve guilt, expiation and redemption. The first quest is that of Ulysses Pope, who lives with his wife, Gretta, and two sons, Eli and Danny. One day, Ulysses ups and disappears from their home in Sloan's Crossing, Minnesota, leaving no note and no reason to part. For the previous year—in fact, ever since he was baptized—Gretta had noticed some strange behavior in her husband but nothing to make her think he'd leave home. Although Eli is only a teenager, he quickly decides to pursue his father to find out what happened. He tries to sneak away in the dead of night but finds that Danny has followed him; even though his brother is rather sickly, Eli lets him stay on the quest in pursuit of their father. Meanwhile, in a plot development that would reek of soap opera if it weren't so well-handled, moneylender Mead Fogarty is putting pressure on Gretta to acknowledge that her husband has left permanently and that her best opportunity for economic survival resides with him. Eli and Danny finally catch up with their father, who, it turns out, has led something of a secret life: He was in Custer's Indian campaign out West and committed an atrocity against an Indian family. The motive for his journey has been to try to make amends for his crime. The psychology of character deepens as, along the way, he starts to get involved in the third quest of the novel—hunting in Montana with a scientist/taxidermist from the Smithsonian who wants to kill buffalo and have them stuffed so their legacy will not be lost on future generations. Enger writes in an expansive style suitable to his sprawling subject.
From the Publisher

“[A] compelling story of a house divided, of a man’s haunting pursuit of forgiveness, and a family’s search for the husband they thought they knew--but never really did . . . The High Divide is a vivid reminder of why we read, and why we want to.” —True West Magazine

“A captivating story . . . The adventure unfolds in prose at turns rollicking and sanguine; Enger is a master of pacing, and once you start turning the pages, there’s no setting the book down.” —Denver Post

“Patiently told and moving . . . [Enger’s] writing style is precise, restrained, and enlivened by his protagonists . . . Although some would call The High Divide a historical novel, it’s really a fine literary work that steps back in time a bit.  It offers an engaging and affecting story with very real characters.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Masterfully told . . . Enger’s writing is stark and coldly beautiful, befitting his subject matter and allowing the story itself to take pride of place. Enger has captured something uniquely American here, in the loneliness and simultaneous grandeur of the scenery, the restlessness in the hearts of his characters, and the need for redemption that is the key to Ulysses’s mysterious quest.” —The Daily Beast

“Blends adventure, two boys coming of age, and an exploration of trust in marriage. Set in 1886, the story captures the splendor of the 19th-century West.” —St. Paul Pioneer Press

“Based on two historical events, the Hornaday expedition of 1886 and the Washita incident, The High Divide is quietly captivating, growing more exciting as the pages turn.” —Washington Missourian

“[A] masterfully told Western reinvention of Homer’s Odyssey . . . 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.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Moving through the High Divide--'the rough country between the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers'--even as its characters move through important divides, or turning points, of their own, Enger's novel is told in beautifully exact, liquid language that wastes no time, just as one cannot afford to waste time when making a journey such as the Pope family's. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal, starred review

Library Journal
★ 07/01/2014
This new work from Enger (Undiscovered Country) is about a journey—actually, several journeys, all undertaken in 1886 by members of the Pope family. First the father, Ulysses, abandons his family in western Minnesota without explanation for what is revealed to be a stunning moral quest; then sons Eli and little Danny seek him out; and finally wife Gretta heads into the Montana Badlands looking for her sons, her husband, and the truth about her marriage and whether she has been an understanding wife. Along the way, the narrative asks us to consider the consequences of our actions, whether we're willing to answer for them, and whether we would sacrifice even what we love to make things right with the world. At the same time, it affectingly captures the social and environmental degradation of the late 1880s, a time when a reduced native population was being forcibly confined to reservations and the buffalo was being hunted nearly to extinction. VERDICT Moving through the High Divide—"the rough country between the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers"—even as its characters move through important divides, or turning points, of their own, Enger's novel is told in beautifully exact, liquid language that wastes no time, just as one cannot afford to waste time when making a journey such as the Pope family's. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/31/14.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616203757
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 9/23/2014
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 84,511
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

LIN ENGER is an Iowa Workshop graduate, the author of the novel Undiscovered Country, and the recipient of a James Michener Award and a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship. His short stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, Ascent, Great River Review, Wolf Head Quarterly, and other journals. He teaches at Minnesota State University Moorhead. His website is www.lin-enger.com.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2014

    Wow

    I'll keep this review short. One of best books I have read all year!!! This a must read on so many levels! Highly reccommend!!!!!!!!

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