The New York Times bestselling author of The Tiger’s Wife returns with “a bracingly epic and imaginatively mythic journey across the American West” (Entertainment Weekly).
In the lawless, drought-ridden lands of the Arizona Territory in 1893, two extraordinary lives unfold. Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman awaiting the return of the men in her life—her husband, who has gone in search of water for the parched household, and her elder sons, who have vanished after an explosive argument. Nora is biding her time with her youngest son, who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home.
Meanwhile, Lurie is a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts. He sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires a momentous expedition across the West. The way in which Lurie’s death-defying trek at last intersects with Nora’s plight is the surprise and suspense of this brilliant novel.
Mythical, lyrical, and sweeping in scope, Inland is grounded in true but little-known history. It showcases all of Téa Obreht’s talents as a writer, as she subverts and reimagines the myths of the American West, making them entirely—and unforgettably—her own.
Praise for Inland
“As it should be, the landscape of the West itself is a character, thrillingly rendered throughout. . . . Here, Obreht’s simple but rich prose captures and luxuriates in the West’s beauty and sudden menace. Remarkable in a novel with such a sprawling cast, Obreht also has a poetic touch for writing intricate and precise character descriptions.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
“Beautifully wrought.”—Vanity Fair
“Obreht is the kind of writer who can forever change the way you think about a thing, just through her powers of description. . . . Inland is an ambitious and beautiful work about many things: immigration, the afterlife, responsibility, guilt, marriage, parenthood, revenge, all the roads and waterways that led to America. Miraculously, it’s also a page-turner and a mystery, as well as a love letter to a camel, and, like a camel, improbable and splendid, something to happily puzzle over at first and take your breath away at the end.”—Elizabeth McCracken, O: The Oprah Magazine
|Publisher:||Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.06(w) x 5.84(h) x 1.11(d)|
About the Author
Téa Obreht’s debut novel, The Tiger's Wife, won the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction and was an international bestseller. Her work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, and Zoetrope: All-Story, among many others. Originally from the former Yugoslavia, she now lives in New York with her husband and teaches at Hunter College.
Read an Excerpt
When those men rode down to the fording place last night, I thought us done for. Even you must realize how close they came: their smell, the song of their bridles, the whites of their horses’ eyes. True to form—blind though you are, and with that shot still irretrievable in your thigh—you made to stand and meet them. Perhaps I should have let you. It might have averted what happened tonight, and the girl would be unharmed. But how could I have known? I was unready, disbelieving of our fate, and in the end could only watch them cross and ride up the wash away from us in the moonlight. And wasn’t I right to wait—for habit if nothing else? I knew you had flight in you yet. You still do; as do I, as I have all my life—since long before we fell in together, when I first came round to myself, six years old and already on the run, wave-rocked, with my father in the bunk beside me and all around the hiss of water against the hull. It was my father running back then, though from what I never knew. He was thin, I think. Young, perhaps. A blacksmith perhaps, or some other hard-laboring man who never caught more rest than he did that swaying month when night and day went undiffered, and there was nothing but the creak of rope and pulley somewhere above us in the dark. He called me sìne, and some other name I’ve struggled lifelong to recall. Of our crossing I remember mostly foam veins and the smell of salt. And the dead, of course, outlaid in their white shrouds side by side along the stern.
We found lodging near the harbor. Our room overlooked laundry lines that crosshatched from window to window until they vanished in the steam of the washhouse below. We shared a mattress and turned our backs to the madman across the room and pretended he wasn’t a bit further gone each day than the last. There was always somebody shrieking in the halls. Somebody caught between worlds. I lay on my side and held the lapel of my father’s coat and felt the lice roving through my hair.
I never met a man so deep-sleeping as my father. Dockwork will do that, I reckon. Every day would find him straining under some crate or hump of rope that made him look an ant. Afterwards, he’d take my hand and let the river of disembarking bodies carry us away from the quays, up the thoroughfare to where the steel scaffolds were rising. They were a marvel to him, curious as he was about the world’s workings. He had a long memory, a constant toothache, and an abiding hatred of Turks that tended to flare up when he took tea with likeminded men. But a funny thing would happen if ever some Serb or Magyar started in about the iron fist of Stambul: my father, so fixed in his enmity, would grow suddenly tearful. Well, efendi, he’d say. Are you better off now? Better off here? Ali-Pasha Rizvanbegović was a tyrant—but far from the worst! At least our land was beautiful. At least our homes were our own. Then would follow wistful reminiscences of his boyhood village: a tumble of stone houses split by a river so green he had no word for it in his new tongue, and had to say it in the old one, thus trapping it forever as a secret between the two of us. What I’d give to remember that word. I could not think why he would leave such a town for this reeking harbor, which turned out to be the kind of place where praying palms-up and a name like Hadziosman Djurić got him mistaken for a Turk so often he disowned both. I believe he called himself Hodgeman Drury for a while—but he was buried “Hodge Lurie” thanks to our landlady’s best guess at the crowded consonants of his name when the hearse came to take his body away.
Our mattress, I remember, was stained. I stood on the stairs to watch the Coachman load my father into his wagon. When they drove off the Landlady put her hand on my head and let me linger. The evening downpour had withdrawn, so a sunset reddened the street. The horses looked ablaze. After that, my father never came to me again, not in the waters, not even in dreams.
That Landlady prayed night after night before a cross on the wall. Her mercy got me hard bread and a harder mattress. In return, I took to praying with my palms together and helped tend her lodgings. Ran up and down stairs with buckets of soapwater, hunted rats, wedged myself up chimneys. Staring men who sat in the shadows sometimes lunged for me. I was a skin-and-bones kid, but unafraid enough of stairwell drunks to kick them while they slept, so they learned to leave me alone. Another summer, another plague, another visit from the Coachman and his black horses. Another and another. A mess of script appeared on our curbpost. Can you read that? the Landlady asked me. It says “pesthouse”—do you know what “pesthouse” means? It turned out to mean empty rooms, empty purse, empty bellies for us both. When the Coachman next came around, she sent me away with him. Just stood there, staring down at the coin he put in her hand.
I bunked in the Coachman’s stable for a year. He was the cleanest man I ever knew. Couldn’t get to sleep without his house just so and his slippers side by side under the bed. The only unevenness to him was an upper tooth that had come in a tusk, giving him the look of a fancy rat. Together we went round the dens and fleahouses on Bleecker Street to collect the dead: lodgers who’d passed in their sleep, or had their throats cut by bunkmates. Sometimes they were still in their beds with the sheets drawn over them when we arrived. But just as often we’d find them folded into trunks or stuffed under floorboards. Those with cash and kin we took to the undertaker. The nameless we drove to uptown hospitals and delivered through back doors so they could be tabled before wakes of looming young men. Their innards laid out. Their bones boiled white.
When trade was slow, we’d have to pull them from churchyards. Two dollars to the gatekeep to look the other way while we walked among the crosses searching out newly turned mounds. The Coachman would start a tunnel where he guessed the head might be, and I would wedge down, shoulders and arms, all the way into the cold earth and stab forward with my iron until I broke the coffinboards. Then I’d feel about with my fingers till I found hair or teeth, and ease a noose over the head. It took both of us to pull them out.
“Still easier than digging them up,” was the Coachman’s reasoning.
Sometimes the mound fell in on itself, and sometimes the body caught and we had to leave it there half-dug; and sometimes they were women and sometimes kids, too, and the graveyard earth couldn’t be got out of my clothing no matter how hot the washhouse kettle.
Once, we found two people sharing a coffin, face-to-face, as though they’d fallen asleep in it together. Once, I put my hand in and felt only the give of earth and the damp velvet of the pillow. “Someone’s beat us here,” I said. “It’s empty.”
Once, I broke through the boards and moved my fingers over coarse hair and skin and was just getting the rope past a reef of jawbone when fingers grabbed my wrist somewhere in the dark. They were dry fingers, hard-tipped. I started and dirt flew down my throat and into me. I kept kicking, but the fingers held on till I thought I’d disappear down that hole. “Please, I can’t do it again,” I sobbed afterwards—but I could, it turned out, with a broken wrist, and a twisted shoulder, too.
Once, a great big fella got stuck halfway out his coffin. I sat there in the dirt with his pale arm on my knees until the Coachman handed me a saw. I carried that arm all the way uptown, wrapped in its own burlap sleeve, on my shoulder like a ham. Some evenings later, I saw that same rent sleeve on a one-armed giant who stood unmoving in the fishmarket crowd. He was pale and round and stood smiling shyly at me, as though we were old friends. He drifted closer, hugging that empty sleeve, till he stood at my side. It seems an odd thing to say, but a thin tickle spread around me, and I knew he’d put his ghost arm about my shoulders. That was the first I ever got this strange feeling at the edges of myself—this want. He let forth a rueful sigh. As if we’d been talking all the while. “God,” he said. “God I’ve an awful hunger. I’d love a nice cod pie. Wouldn’t you, little boss?”
“F*** you,” said I, and fled.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
WOW! I'm a fan of westerns but this is the first I've read told from a woman's perspective. It will stir up feelings like only an great book can. Tea Obreht has given us a world and it's characters that are so real you can see them in your mind. As the family struggles and circumstances build, you will try to guess where the story is going. You will be surprised. A very emotional story that reminds me of Cherokee America.
4.5 Stars It’s been around eight years since I read Téa Obreht’s debut novel, The Tiger’s Wife, but the fact that I loved the beautiful writing and the story had been enough incentive for me to request this second novel, Inland. I’m so glad that I did. This story has a duel narrative, which kept me on my toes, and wanders over time, over centuries, and around the world in one of the narratives. Over the course of a day in another narrative, traveling through time using memories revisited, times and places, loves and losses over a lifetime. Through all of this, Obreht weaves this story of the early days of the Arizona Territory, 1893, with an enchanting sprinkling of magical realism, as well as a spiritual connection – both of these two narrators have conversations with, and connections to the dead. This isn’t a carefree, cheerful read, yet it doesn’t dwell in the harshness of these lives. There is much pondering and wonderment of their surroundings, as bleak as they are, and through these we learn their stories. Obreht manages to skillfully weave into this story the historical experimentation of the United States Camel Corps. using camels as pack animals in the Southwest during the mid-19th-century development of the country. The US Army eventually decided to abandon this project, despite the camels’ stamina. This added another layer to the story, but what I loved most about this was the vivid portrayal of the era, the landscape, and the memories of these two people, their stories, as well as their conversations with those who haunt their days and nights. If there were brief moments while reading this where it felt as though I had wandered in the desert too long, the breathtaking ending is one that will remain etched in my mind. Many thanks for the ARC provided by to Random House Publishing Group – Random House
This is an unusual and at time challenging read. Set primarily in 1893 Arizona, it's told from the perspectives of Nora, a woman coping with incredible challenges, and Lurie, a criminal who is transporting a camel named Burke for the US Army. Nora's family ran out of water and her husband has gone to look for it, leaving her to care for her children and gramma- all of whom have physical or emotional issues. To cope, she talks to her daughter Evelyn, who is dead. Lurie has a wider range of ghosts to talk with and about- orphaned at 6, he made his way into adulthood with both petty and bigger crimes. Obrecht has written a tale where these characters intersect- and it's believable. It is not a straight line narrative and there are times when it didn't entirely make sense, at least to me. That's ok because the writing is amazing. I was not familiar with the camel corps - so it was a bonus to learn about it as well as about the hardships of living in Arizona during a drought. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. This is quite different from the Tiger's Wife and it's excellent.
I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Tea Obreht, and Random House Publishing. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read this novel of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. Inland is a historical novel that brings to mind an excellent fairy tale. There are times you will saunter to the next step in the story or face great leaps of motion and noise that take you by surprise. There are two stories - several Asian camel drovers and mounts come to the United States by ship. Some wise investors think they would be useful - profitable - to handle crossing the wild and wicked deserts on the way to California. By the time they arrive the men are on to some other fine scheme, there is no one there to meet the ship, so we have men and camels pretty much discarded in the southern port with no common language, no money, no idea where they were or where they needed to go. Camels, of course, would make wonderful freight haulers if a person could just portray that knowledge and if one knew how to get to the great desert areas of the west - the staked plains with ten or fifteen days between palatable water. And of course, camels were pretty frightening to residents of the south and western United States in that day and age. Most folks had not even seen a picture of a camel and those that had could not put the size of the beast into perspective. Most of these tales are told by the nicknamed 'hirsute Levantine' (though not a Turk) from Smyrna known as Misafir, as he talks to his camel Burke. And travel they do, across the south, across Texas Territory, and into Arizona, parts of Oklahoma, Maybe a little of Old Mexico and New Mexico. Then we have the story of a family who chose to settle in the Territory of Arizona in the 1890s. The father Emmett runs a small newspaper in the town of Amargo, a few tents and small buildings nestled along Big Fork Creek. Mother Nora does her best to keep her family fed and clothed and handle the farm chores - they have sheep and sometimes chickens - and grow and preserve all she can in the garden when there is water in the creek. Lately, there hasn't been water anywhere in Arizona Territory, and Emmett is three days late bringing home a shipment of much-needed water. Still living at home are their sons - Rob and Dolan in their teens and baby Toby, 8 or 9. Emmitt's mother, Gramma, is confined to a wheelchair since a stroke years ago. Josie is a teen, an orphaned girl of Emmett's family, his ward and occult cousin. Harlan is the sheriff of Amargo, and Crace is the wealthy, heartless rancher stealing all the land and water. Inland is a good story, filled with word pictures that will keep you smiling and a mystery of noble proportions. This is a book I am pleased to recommend to friends and family.
2.5 stars, rounded down I picked this purely because I thought it took place in Arizona and I’ve always wanted to read a historical novel from the Arizona Territory days. I have not read Obreht’s prior book. This one just never grabbed me. Told from two POVs, Lurie, a wanted man from Missouri who becomes a cameleer, and Nora, a frontier woman awaiting the return of her husband and older sons, it was choppy and stilted. Both are haunted by ghosts. In Laurie’s case, they literally make demands of him. And his narrative is directed to the camel he leads across the west. Nora holds conversations with her dead daughter. I debated just putting this one down numerous times. The pace of this book is as slow as a desert tortoise. The story also meanders across time and place. To be honest, I only kept reading because other reviews mentioned how great the ending was (and it was worth finishing for the ending). In a way, it reminded me of Lincoln in the Bardo, similar language and of course, the ghosts. If you like that book, you’ll probably like this one. I didn't care for either. I was an outlier on that book and will probably by on this one as well. Also, I had to do some research, but it would appear that Nora’s homestead was actually in what is now New Mexico, up close to the Four Corners. While the author spends a lot of time writing about the homestead, she didn’t give me a real sense of place. Anyone who has spent time in NM and AZ knows how different the landscape can be and I resented having to research it to get a better feel. And despite them being down to their last cups of water, huge periods of time pass when it doesn’t factor into the story at all. And how can there be mud in a drought? Little things like that irritated me. I did enjoy the story about the camels and their trek. In fact, the relationship between Burke and Lurie was the one part of the story I did enjoy. My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.
It’s 1893, town of Amargo, Arizona Territory... Nora Lark has been expecting her husband for three days now since he went to the nearest water source to bring back the precious liquid they are living without, due to one of the harshest droughts in decades. Nora is, to a certain extent, unconcerned by the delay because her husband Emmet has taken longer in the past to return home from a trip. However, this time is different. Nora is having to contend with two growing sons acting out, her third, younger child’s overactive imagination, an ongoing dispute between neighbors, and Amargo and the adjacent town’s bitter fight for a council seat that may decide the fate of a railroad line. I haven’t read Téa Obreht’s debut The Tiger’s Wife, though I have had it on my TBR almost since its release. However, upon recognizing her name, I decided to plunge into her newest effort and... what an adventure it was! Inland is a polished, deeply literary and ambitious novel—all the more remarkable because it is a sophomore work that shows an author already at the top of her writing prowess. The story develops over the course of a very fluid 24-hours in which readers are treated not only to the minutiae of hard, daily living in the Old West, but also to the backstories of a cast of characters that practically jump out of the page for being so brilliantly fleshed out. Us readers, thus, become witnesses to these characters’ inevitable fates, for secrets will come to light that may threaten the very fabric of their lives. Inland is genre-bending; a Western with a huge comedic component, especially in the first quarter of the novel. Afterwards, the humor becomes less frequent and a bit toned down, though not less successful, giving way to all the drama. Lawmen with tarnished pasts, outlaws on the run, cattle barons, newspaper writers barely scraping by, Mexicans, Native settlers, immigrants from all over, ghosts, camels, and a mythical beast, are the images of daily life in the American frontier, circa 1893, and who knew all these elements would come together, despite being seemingly familiar, to be so funny and fresh in the adept hands of Ms. Obreht. Disclaimer: I received from the publisher a free e-galley of this book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
When I requested this book, I was hoping it was going to be a historical fiction chronicling early pioneer life and/or exploration in Arizona. I was very disappointed that it was not. It was confusing at times but I found the second half of the book was slightly better than the first half. Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. I will give it 2.5 stars.
Fiction fans are always on the lookout for that breakout debut novelist. Such was the case with Tea Obreht and “The Tiger’s Wife”, which was such a great big hit in 2011. I am always just as curious about the follow-up. Does it come out quickly? Was it already laying there, but deemed not right for the 1st effort? What is the style/genre? Same/different, a combination? Does the writing “hold up”. It’s been seemingly pretty quiet around Ms. Obreht, but, after 7/8 years, that is soon to change. Here comes “Inland” and it answers all the questions. “Inland” couldn’t be more different than “The Tiger’s Wife” and I couldn’t be more delighted. For starters, we’re not in an unnamed Balkan landscape chasing real and imaginary animals and spirits. We are in the hard-core 19th century U.S. Wild West where you never know where your next drop of water is coming, much less what the future has in store. There are the living and the non-living, of course, but most of the imaginary places and things turn out to be pretty real. There are lots of characters, and they all have a role to play. The story is complex, even at times, a challenge to follow. Is it a mystery? Is it real history? Could it be all that and more? Move on over a bit “The Tiger’s Wife”. “Inland” is going to take a place at Ms. Obreht’s head table.
First of all...thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book to read and review....but I had a difficult time with this book. I love most historical fiction but this wasn't what I was expecting.