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9781250247636

(Click on the photo to order from the retailer of your choice.)

Don't just take my word for how great this book is, check out what Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, and BookPage have to say.

And if those sources didn't tell you enough, how about this review from the New York Times (!), this story from The Lily, or this tweet from Secretary Clinton: 

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Given that we are currently #SaferAtHome, I've been making the podcast rounds. Give a listen to Zestful Aging, where we talked about just doing it,  Mama Bear Dares, where we talked about the importance of local government, and/or The Upstate Regular, where I talk about our county's COVID-19 Challenges. 

NEW: I did an online reading for the Princeton Public Library and talked a little bit about what local government is facing right now. If you've wondered what I look like at a reading, give it a gander.

NEW NEW: The Hillary Clinton story continues...


Izzy Bird, goodbye Colorado

After Jim and Isabella had their talk about his drinking, they retired to their respective rooms and slept.
In the morning, the mercury was to 20-below. “I never saw such a brilliant atmosphere…The air was filled with diamond sparks and quite intangible…It was still and cloudless, and the shapers of the violet mountains were softened by a veil of the tenderest blue.”
The stage to Greeley pulled up and Mr. Fodder* was already inside. He told Isabella that, one day, he’d like to go hunting with Jim, if she thought it would be safe. She did, and introduced the two men. Mr Fodder put out his hand “cased in a perfectly fitting lemon-colored kid glove.” This glove and handshake, she adds in a footnote, would later lead to the events that cause Jim’s death. But doesn’t provide many details in the note, other than implying that Fodder started it. The stage pulled away. Fodder keeps talking on about Jim, so much so that “… I never realized that my Rocky Mountain life was at an end, not even when I saw Jim, with his golden yellow hair in the sunshine, slowly leading the beautiful mare over the snowy Plains back to Estes Park, equipped with the saddle on which I had ridden 800 miles!
“A drive of several hours brought us to Greeley, and a few hours later, in the far blue distance, the Rocky Mountains, and all that they enclose, went down to the Prairie Sea.”
And there ends her story of the American West.**
 
* we met him weeks ago - but that’s really not that important.
** as for me, I’m going to take a little break on Isabella stories while I catch up on some other things. However, I have plenty of other trips to choose from once I have some time again.

Izzy Bird, devil Jim

Isabella is in Namaqua.* There is a dance this evening. But first, all of the guests and household members are fascinated by Isabella’s riding partner Jim.

The landlady confesses that Jim’s name is invoked when children are being naughty, by telling them that “he would get them, for he came down from the mountains every week, and took back a child with him to eat!” Yet all assembled seem shocked by how well behaved he is. Plus, he’s something like a celebrity in these parts and Isabella says she “gained a reflected importance. “All the men in the settlement assembled in the front room, hoping he would go and smoke there, and when he remained in the kitchen they came round the window and into the doorway to look at him.”

Everyone clears out for the dance and Jim and Isabella had the kitchen to themselves until midnight. “It was a most respectable dance, a fortnightly gathering got up by the neighboring settlers, most of them young married people, and there was no drinking at all.” Isabella passes the time by writing this letter while Jim recited poems. They get to talking, too. 

“… for the last time, I urged upon him the necessary of a reformation in his life, beginning with giving up whisky, going so far as to tell him that I despised a man of his intellect for being a slave to such a vice. ‘TOO LATE! Too late!,’ he always answered, ‘for such a change.’ As I looked at him, I felt a pity such as I never before felt for a human being.”

* There are only a few entries left. We should close out the Rockies by the end of the week. Prepare yourself.


Izzy Bird, ugh. a dance.

Isabella is still on the way to Denver. They have just reached a cluster of houses called “Namaqua.”* She has heard there will be a dance at the inn that night and is dreading it.
“I pictured to myself no privacy, no peace, no sleep, drinking, low sounds, and worse than all, Jim getting into a quarrel and using his pistols. He was uncomfortable about it for another reason. He said he had dreamt the night before that there was to be a dance, and that he had to shoot a man for ‘making an unpleasant remark.’”
After arriving at the rooming house, which is full of people in town for the dance, she was told she could have the kitchen to herself. That is not what happened.
“I found a large, prononcee,** competent, bustling widow, hugely stout, able to manage all men and everything else, and a very florid sister like herself, top heavy with hair.” They were cooking dinner for ten men. “The bustle and clatter were indescribable, and the landlady asked innumerable questions, and seemed to fill the whole room….I sat by the stove until supper, wearying of the noise and bustle after the quiet of Estes Park.”
 
* It’s now part of Loveland and has its own interesting history.
** not sure if this is an actual word or a typo.

Izzy Bird, hard to leave

Isabella is about to take on the longest ride of her return trip. It will be 30 miles, which they will do at a walking pace because her horse is laden with luggage.

“I did not wish to realize that it was my last ride, and my last association with any of the men of the mountains whom I had learned to trust, and in some respects to admire. No more hunters’ tales told while the pine knots crack and blaze; no more thrilling narratives of adventures with Indians and bears; and never again shall I hear that strange talk of Nature and her doings which is the speech of those who live with her and her alone.”

When they emerged onto the Plains, the wind and cold became intolerable and the dismalness of the land began to overcome her. She turned to look at the mountains, “I never saw the mountain range look so beautiful — uplifted in every shade of transparent blue, till the sublimity of Long’s Peak, and the lofty crest of Storm Peak, bore only unsullied snow against the sky. *…100 miles away, Pikes Peak rose a lump of blue, and over all, through that glorious afternoon, a veil of blue spiritualized without dimming the outlines of that most glorious range, making it look like the dreamed-of mountains of ‘the land which is very far off,’ till at sunset it took out sharp in glories of violet and opal, and the whole horizon up to a great height was suffused with the deep rose and pure orange of the afterglow."

* This will be a long sentence. Take a deep breath before reading.


Izzy Bird, coruscations

Isabella is on her way to Denver with Jim. They have stopped for the night.

Initially, Isabella was to have slept at a woman’s house and mentioned that said woman “never stops talking.” Miller, a young man whose “attractive” house was not ready for ladies the last time she came through, now has a place where Isabella can stay. “His house is a model. He cleans everything as soon as it is used, so nothing is ever dirty, and his stove and cooking gear in their bright parts look like polished silver. It was amusing to heat the two men talk like two women about various ways of making bread and biscuits, one even writing out a recipe for the other.”*

The men treated her well and even went so far as to heat a stone for her feet and warm a blanket for her to sleep in, which is good because it is 11 below zero. 

“The stars were intensely bright, and a well-defined auroral arch, throwing off fantastic coruscations,** lighted the whole northern sky…This was my last evening in what may be called a mountainous region.”

Sounds delightful, frankly, if chilly.

* I suddenly want biscuits.

** “a sudden gleam or flash of light”


Izzy Bird, fyking

Isabella and Evans are riding up to Jim’s cabin. Jim will ride with her the rest of the way into Denver.
Evans sang the praises of Jim, whose chivalry toward women was well established. His heart was kind, Evans said, but he is his own worst enemy. A few months later, Evans would shoot and kill Jim. The story about why remains unclear. Of the event, Isabella writes, “The story of the previous weeks is dark, sad, and evil. Of the five differing versions which have been written to me of the act itself and its immediate causes, it is best to give none. The tragedy is too painful to dwell upon.”
But back in the here and now,” Jim is alive.
“At the door of his den I took leave of Birdie, who had been my faithful companion for more than 700 miles of traveling,** and of Evans, who had been uniformly kind to me and just in all his dealings, even to paying to me at that moment the very last dollar he owed me. May God bless him and his!”
Isabella and Jim faff around a bit before leaving from his cabin, mostly so that Jim can present her with his finest beaver skin. When they finally set off, the weather isn’t great.
“[Jim] had previously promised that he would not hurry or scold, by ‘fyking’*** had not been included in the arrangement, and when in the early darkness we reached the steep hill, at whose four the rapid deep St. Vrain flows, he ‘fyked’ unreasonably about me, the mare, and the crossing generally, and seemed to think I could not get through…”
But get through she did.
 
* which isn’t here nor now but you know what I mean.
** I’m more torn up about this separation than about Jim’s death, frankly.
*** apparently this is a valid word in Scrabble but I have zero idea what it means. Thanks for nothing, internet.
 
(I'm going to leave Isabella here until Monday. FYI.)