BookBrowse Reviews Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Battleborn

Stories

by Claire Vaye Watkins

Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins X
Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2012, 304 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2013, 304 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


In Claire Vaye Watkins's debut story collection, Battleborn, mostly set in desolate Nevada, people can see trouble coming from miles away. And trouble seems to find them.

Most of the stories in Claire Vaye Watkins's debut story collection, Battleborn, take place in the arid setting of Nevada. Both the cities and the desert are equally, if differently, inhospitable to the lonely, often damaged people who populate the pages of her stories. "From where the house was perched, high up on the alluvial fan, the valley below seemed to unfurl and flatten like a starched white sheet. The sun was rising, illuminating the peaks of the Last Chance Range to the west, starting its long trip across the Black Rock…Something was different in the distance. A small white cloud of dust billowed on the horizon. It grew. At its eyes was a speck. A truck."

In this desolate environment, people can see trouble, like that pickup truck, coming from miles away. And trouble seems to find them, whether in the form of overt threats or suppressed bad memories and ancient demons. In the autobiographical opening story, "Ghosts, Cowboys," the narrator attempts to overcome her family's horrific connections, but discovers that it's as hard for her to escape her origins, as it is for the land where she lives to overcome its own tortured history. In "Rondine al Nido," a woman, prompted by a lover to recall something terrible from her past, relates a truly awful story about an unforgivable betrayal she perpetuated on a fellow teenager in her youth. And in "The Archivist," another woman, reeling from the end of a damaged and damaging relationship, bonds with her sister over their shared dread of becoming mothers as bad as their own.

Although a geographic setting and a somewhat elegiac mood loosely tie many of these stories together, their characters, plots, time periods and themes are remarkably varied. Watkins, despite being a young woman and a debut author, does not limit herself to young or female characters in her fiction. Sure, in "Wish You Were Here," a young woman realizes, perhaps too late, that her husband's vision for their life does not match her own. But in "Man-O-War," an old rancher wonders whether his protective feelings toward a young pregnant runaway is prompted by a fatherly impulse or something less noble. While in "The Diggings," two brothers narrowly escape joining the Donner Party only to discover less immediate but perhaps equally harrowing dangers as they are swept up in the nineteenth-century gold rush.

Throughout the collection, the stories and their characters convey feelings of loss and regret, for what has - or hasn't - happened to them and to the place where they live, whether globally or more locally. "All the great land mammals are dying," one narrator reports. "There were once birds the size of sheep. Pinnipeds* used to be huge; walruses had tusks six feet long. Jackrabbits had feet like two-by-fours. Armadillos were as big as minivans. Now, they are all dying off." This fear - of smallness, of loss even to the point of extinction - pervades nearly all of the stories. Some are almost painful in their bitterness and brutal in their sparseness. But there's a bleak beauty here too, both in the landscapes Watkins portrays and in the restrained prose she uses to bring this stark place to life for the reader.



*For those who are a little rusty on their scientific classifications - pinnipeds are fin footed mammals including walruses, seals and sea lions (Latin pinna meaning wing or fin, and ped - foot).

Reviewed by Norah Piehl

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in September 2012, and has been updated for the August 2013 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Claire Vaye Watkins

If you liked Battleborn, try these:

  • The Weight of a Human Heart jacket

    The Weight of a Human Heart

    by Ryan O'Neill

    Published 2014

    About this book

    With imagination, wit, and a keen eye, Ryan O'Neill draws the essence of the human experience with a cast of characters who stick with you long after you turn the last page of this brilliant short story collection.

  • Middle Men jacket

    Middle Men

    by Jim Gavin

    Published 2014

    About this book

    Middle Men brings to life a series of unforgettable characters learning what it means to love and work and be in the world as a man

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Bloodbath Nation
    Bloodbath Nation
    by Paul Auster
    In recent years, Booker Prize­–nominated novelist Paul Auster has increasingly turned to ...
  • Book Jacket: The Nazi Conspiracy
    The Nazi Conspiracy
    by Brad Meltzer, Josh Mensch
    The Nazi Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch was a big hit with our First Impressions readers...
  • Book Jacket
    Yonder
    by Jabari Asim
    The captivating historical novel Yonder turns an intimate lens towards the tragedy and survivorship ...
  • Book Jacket: After Sappho
    After Sappho
    by Selby Wynn Schwartz

    "Someone will remember us, I say, even in another time."
    —Sappho, fragment ...


Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Love of My Life
by Rosie Walsh
An up-all-night love story wrapped in a mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Ghosted.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    This Other Eden
    by Paul Harding

    A novel inspired by the true story of Malaga Island from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Tinkers.

  • Book Jacket

    River Sing Me Home
    by Eleanor Shearer

    A remarkable debut about a mother's gripping journey across the Caribbean to find her stolen children in the aftermath of slavery.

  • Book Jacket

    Exiles
    by Jane Harper

    A captivating new mystery from New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jane Harper.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

It's A G T Me

and be entered to win..

Who Said...

Education is the period during which you are being instructed by somebody you do not know, about something you do ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.