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.
Claiming Ground 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 ajar and the "stiff sprigs of sage, their seedheads ...
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