The Rest of the Earth

The Rest of the Earth

by William Haywood Henderson
     
 

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William Haywood Henderson's first novel, Native, received lavish praise for its evocative prose and breathtaking descriptions of the stark Western landscape. Now, Henderson returns to the Wind River Valley in Wyoming to tell the story of one man's odyssey into this forbidding land.

In the years following the Civil War, Walker Avary sails from Boston to San Francisco

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Overview

William Haywood Henderson's first novel, Native, received lavish praise for its evocative prose and breathtaking descriptions of the stark Western landscape. Now, Henderson returns to the Wind River Valley in Wyoming to tell the story of one man's odyssey into this forbidding land.

In the years following the Civil War, Walker Avary sails from Boston to San Francisco, then heads into the remote West, following the sketchy maps of the few who have gone before him. As he travels, he experiences several fleeting relationships before settling in a remote valley with a native young woman whose tribe was destroyed through its previous encounters with white men. Together through the deep winter, the texture of their lives is recounted in prose so sensuous that the sights, scents, even the wildlife and natural elements they encounter are made startling vivid.

Both a precisely rendered depiction of time and place and a nearly mythic tale of survival in the wilderness, The Rest of the Earth examines the intersection of individual destiny, the legacy of personal history and the powerful forces of nature, which run like deep swift currents through this beautifully written work.
-- "The Rest of the Earth" can be compared to the novels of Cormac McCarthy, Ivan Doig, and Wallace Stegner, with their western locales, lyrical writings, and brooding landscapes.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This atmospheric, vague novel traces a young man's wanderings, alone and afoot, in the vast Wyoming wilderness after the Civil War. Walker Avary, the unsavory hero of Henderson's (Native) second novel, is a sly, itinerant thief who follows a false map in pursuit of an unstated goal. As a young man, he was abandoned by his father in San Francisco after the war and is now obsessed with trekking west, seeking a place called the Wind River Valley. With a supply-laden mule and his precious map, taken from an old railroad brochure, Avary wanders the foothills of the northern Rocky Mountains. He makes a home for himself when he finds the Wind River and a valley with a beautiful lake. But Avary, a "prairie turnip," is hardly a frontiersman, and it's fortunate that he meets a young Indian girl, a "sheepeater," who teaches him how to survive before she runs off, feeling that he can't protect her. Avary builds a sturdy house by the lake and befriends the local rancher, who turns on him by filing claims for ownership of Avary's land. This disjointed tale lacks spark and surprise, overwhelmed as it is with Avary's murky dreams and visions. Some of the lengthy descriptions of Wyoming's geography are truly stunning, but they don't sustain the story. Too much is left unexplained, too many events occur without apparent connection and characters drift in and out of scenes like fog. Avary's false map is an all too apt metaphor for the entire novel, which lures the reader along with the promise of a nonexistent reward. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
Turning Wyoming's Wind River Mountains into a shadowland where dream intermingles with reality, Henderson returns to the territory of his first novel, Native (1993), to follow a 19th-century loner in his quest for his own unique place.

Even having already gone from New England to San Francisco by sea, young Walker Avary still isn't free of wanderlust, so he makes use of the new transcontinental railroad to seek his destiny in the unmapped wilderness of the Wyoming Territory. He resists the advances en route of a girl from Kentucky, then shares his trail briefly with a teenage saloon singer, a matchup that ends when the singer is forced to flee a posse coming after the horse she's stolen. Walker's search for the ineffable taking him ever farther from civilization, he finds a pristine lake in the Wind River high country where he decides to build a lodge for travelers. He also comes across an Indian girl, seemingly the last of her tribe, who shows him caches of food and furs, keeps him warm through a bone- chilling winter, and helps him construct his house, rock-solid and with an incomparable view. Walker's first guests in the lodge are cattlemen who've moved into the valley below, but during a night of revelry his Indian maid is raped and runs away. Persuaded by the ranch owner to stake a formal claim on his piece of paradise, Walker starts with him to Cheyenne, sharing a homoerotic moment with the man's teenage son along the way. A violent encounter in an Army fort sends Walker back to his refuge—where he finds still another young girl alone, who comes with him to share his vision.

Plot details can't start to convey the hypnotic attraction of place in this walkabout through the wilderness that transforms near-random events into a mysterious evocation of human longing at its most extreme.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780452274167
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
08/01/1998
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.46(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.79(d)

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