Bell's memoir rides on the laurels of Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain" and Judy Blunt's Breaking Clean
. As a narrator, Bell is shy, even concealed, and trickier than Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle
, Half Broke Horses
) or Mary Karr (The Liars' Club
). Rather than looking for the nuances of an individual, readers will take pleasure in seeing how this narrator views the world around her and sets it to prose. Claiming Ground
is not the portrait of a woman; it's the portrait of a place.
starts at a barely audible murmur and resists the natural inclination to get louder as the narrative progresses. The book's opening line, "the sheepwagon door stands open to the early dawn," hints at a propensity for understatement and opacity, and throughout the memoir the reader is offered little more than the glimpses of a door left...
Beyond the Book
Location is integral to Laura Bell's memoir; not only does the land around her serve as a subtle metaphor for her emotions, but it also gives her a complex and compelling backdrop for her narrative. Though Bell's memoir stretches across the state of Wyoming, the majority of her story is concentrated in and around the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in northern Wyoming, adjacent to Yellowstone National Park.
The Beartooth and Absaroka mountain ranges are often thought of as similar in appearance, but both ranges have a distinct aesthetic that Bell explores in Claiming Ground
. The Beartooths, which are slightly higher in elevation than the Absarokas and...