Ruthie Fear: Book summary and reviews of Ruthie Fear by Maxim Loskutoff

Ruthie Fear

A Novel

by Maxim Loskutoff

Ruthie Fear by Maxim Loskutoff X
Ruthie Fear by Maxim Loskutoff
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2020
    288 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

In this haunting parable of the American West, a young woman faces the violent past of her remote Montana valley.

As a child in Montana's Bitterroot Valley, Ruthie Fear sees an apparition: a strange, headless creature near a canyon creek. Its presence haunts her throughout her youth. Raised in a trailer by her stubborn, bowhunting father, Ruthie develops a powerful connection with the natural world but struggles to find her place in a society shaped by men. Development, gun violence, and her father's vendettas threaten her mountain home. As she comes of age, her small community begins to fracture in the face of class tension and encroaching natural disaster, and the creature she saw long ago reappears as a portent of the valley's final reckoning.

An entirely new kind of western and the first novel from one of this generation's most wildly imaginative writers, Ruthie Fear captures the destruction and rebirth of the modern American West with warmth, urgency, and grandeur. The Technicolor bursts of action that test Ruthie's commitment to the valley and its people invite us to look closer at our nation's complicated legacy of manifest destiny, mass shootings, and environmental destruction. Anchored by its unforgettable heroine, Ruthie Fear presents the rural West as a place balanced on a knife-edge, at war with itself, but still unbearably beautiful and full of love.

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Media Reviews

"Loskutoff captures the vast and lonely land along with its beauty with breathtaking descriptions of violence and empathy, and ends with a shocking and poignant surprise. With its humor and heart, Loskutoff's harrowing tale offers a heroine to root for. This one hits hard." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"With resonant characters and a great sense of place, this novel rarely goes where you'd expect, and is stronger for it." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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Reader Reviews

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Diane T. (Slingerlands, NY)

What????? WOW!!!!!
Ruthie Fear by Maxim Loskutoff is both poignant and gritty.
The reader watches Ruthie grow up in a male dominated community after her mother abandons her and her father, who is also "growing up". Her beloved mountains and the purity of the untouched nature around her begins to be targeted by the elite who "want to get away from it all". Perhaps "Fear" leads her to explore outside of her hometown but it is the constant of the land that draws Ruthie back. Grit is the "wild west" feel (and physical placement) of the story - the actual home area of the author - which also draws Ruthie back. The characters, good and bad, that are woven into Ruthie's story are gritty in their obsession about "their land" which fortifies Ruthie's resolve. This is what gives Ruthie "true grit".
The writing is lyrical which enhances descriptions of Ruthie's physical world. The unexpected climax and conclusion .made me take multiple deep breaths upon finishing and said "Wow" out loud. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Both Ruthie and this book are forces of nature.

Ian M. (McFarland, WI)

Coming of Age in Rural America: It's Complicated and Beautiful
Ruthie Fear is a beautiful coming of age story. Loskutoff's descriptive style is vivid, immersing the reader into the bleakness of growing up poor in a beautiful part of Montana. The banality and tension of being raised an only child of a destitute, single, yet loving, father is visceral. The characters are deep and multidimensional; their conflicted emotions twisting the reader in knots -- from empathy to anger. If you ever wanted to read a mashup of "Catcher in the Rye" and "No Country for Old Men," this is it -- with a female heroine. Guns, taxidermy, high school football, good ol' boys, class conflict, sweeping landscapes... This one will stick with you for a long while.

Maggie R. (Canoga Park, CA)

A sometimes painful pageturner
I'm so glad to have met Ruthie Fear and accompanied her from childhood through a "coming-of-age" narrative marked by a strong tie to the world of nature and bruising experiences with the people she encounters. Ruthie has a mind of her own, a persistent drive to be herself in spite of the expectations of her society. And that society is so far from my own that it is both painful and thrilling. The writing is beautiful. Characters are diverse, wildly so. There are moments when I was reluctant to turn the page but at the same time anxious to find out what comes next. Trigger alert for those who are disturbed by, shall we say, unkind treatment of animals - this may not be the read for you.

Gary R. (Bolingbrook, IL)

An ode to the Bitterroot Valley
I don't now where to start! Such a good read, the story of Ruthie Fear and also the Bitterroot Valley of Montana! We get to watch the life of Ruthie Fear and her father Rutherford as they live their lives in the shadow of the Montana mountains. A tough life for sure but somehow rewarding and simple. The ending was, in a way, fitting! But what happened? You'll just have to read it, well worth the time

Monica P. (Cleves, OH)

I'm Blown Away
I just finished this book a few minutes ago and I sit here stunned and emotional. So emotional I'm not sure what to say. This story was way out of my usual genre, but oh my!

Every sentence was beautifully and poetically written and sometimes that was the only thing that kept me reading. The unique and gritty storyline was not always comfortable to me, but I'm glad I stepped out of my box. This was not written as fluff and I imagine the author agonized over these pages.

Would I recommend this one? You bet I would, but be prepared because it's no beach read and I mean that in a good way.

Beverly J. (Hoover, AL)

Smart, Original and Completely Absorbing
A richly observed tale spiked with survival and violence, rough justice, and love.

The reader meets Ruthie Fear when she is six years old and follow her up until her early thirties as she battles her inner demons on what type of life does she want to live as her home in the Bitter Root Valley, Montana is battling its own demons of progress versus preserving the present.

The plotting is intricate, the characters are well drawn and the pace never lets up as there are natural and man-made disasters to provide the tensions between people as they attempt to survive and thrive.

This tale of the American West is complexly layered and provides no easy answers as I pondered what would I do in the various situations.

But, if for no other reason, read this book for the spectacular landscape writing.

...15 more reader reviews

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More Information

Raised in small towns in the west, Maxim Loskutoff is the critically acclaimed author of Come West and See, an NPR and Amazon Best Book of 2018, a New York Times Editor's Pick, and winner of the High Plains Book Award. His stories and essays have appeared in numerous periodicals, including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Ploughshares, and Playboy. His debut novel Ruthie Fear is forthcoming from W.W. Norton in September 2020. He lives in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana. Visit him at

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