Long after finishing "The Watershed Years" by Montana author Russell Rowland, readers will be remembering its sharply drawn characters and their surprising fates. That's how good this novel is. The writing is excellent-taut, deceptively simple, and powerful-but it is the irresistible story that sets this novel apart.
"The Watershed Years" is the much-anticipated sequel to Rowland's highly acclaimed first novel, "In Open Spaces." Both books vividly chronicle the lives of the Arbuckles, a ranching family in eastern Montana.
In the new book, the family patriarch dies under mysterious circumstances and the ranch falls to the three grown sons: Blake, the book's narrator and recently married to Rita; Bob, a quiet man married to ambitious Helen; and Jack, missing for years, presumed dead, and Rita's ex-husband.
After years of hardships and heartaches, the family has finally been rewarded with good weather and good harvests. Will this relative wealth bring the family together or will Jack continue to look for ways to exploit the ranch for his own gain? Will Helen finally get her wish to have children and strengthen her case for taking over the ranch? Rowland explores these questions with the same understated grace he showed in his first novel, pushing this family to be brink of success, only to have the desires of a few family members threaten the entire operation. It is a compelling story of a family's struggles with jealousy, greed, and murder.
Rowland, who lives in Billings, Montana, said he drew inspiration for the novels from his own ranching family. In fact, the Arbuckle Ranch is still a working cattle ranch near Alzada. It was started by Williamand Valentine Dickey in the early 1880s and was one of the first cattle ranches in Montana. Rowland's great grandfather George Arbuckle took over the ranch in the early 1900s.
"When I wrote my first novel I debated whether or not to use the Arbuckle name and run the risk of offending anyone from the family," Rowland said. "I chose to use the name for two reasons. The first was because I wanted to honor the members of the Arbuckle family who built this ranch. Many of these people endured hardship that our own modern generation couldn't possibly imagine, and their efforts have made my life seem downright luxurious. But the main reason I chose to use "Arbuckle" was because it's just such a fine name."
However, Rowland said it is important to note that the characters in his novels are not modeled after actual family members. "These characters took on their own personalities and made their own decisions," he said. "As much as I would like to claim control over them, they proved to be just as independent of spirit as those who inspired them."
Rowland's first novel, "In Open Spaces," was praised by writers Ivan Doig, Guy Vanderhauge, and C.J. Box, among others. It made the San Francisco Chronicle's bestseller list and was named among the Best of the West by the Salt Lake City Tribune.
|Product dimensions:||6.58(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.72(d)|
About the Author
Rowland's second novel, The Watershed Years, was recently released and has garnered rave reviews. The Missoulian says, "Rowland writes with precision about the fabric of people's lives - fabric that sometimes flutters smoothly, but that sometimes is tattered by family conflicts."
Rowland recently moved back to his home town of Billings, where he teaches at Montana State University and with the Gotham Writers' Workshops. He has taught at Boston University and was a writer in residence at St. Mary's College. Russell holds a BA from Pacific Lutheran University and an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. He also offers private consulting for fellow writers, and is available for public readings and speaking engagements. He has been a frequent guest speaker for business organizations throughout Montana.
Rowland was a MacDowell fellow in 2005, and his work has appeared in several publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, The Big Sky Journal, a story compilation called Literary Cash, a collection of stories inspired by the music of Johnny Cash, and Roger, the literary journal from Roger Williams University. His story, "Ed Got a Job," which appeared in the online journal failbetter.com, was nominated for the Million Writer's Award. And he will be the featured author in December's edition of the online journal The Smoking Poet.
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