Summary and book reviews of Deep Creek by Pam Houston

Deep Creek

Finding Hope in the High Country

by Pam Houston

Deep Creek by Pam Houston X
Deep Creek by Pam Houston
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2019, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2020, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Chris Fredrick
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About this Book

Book Summary

"How do we become who we are in the world? We ask the world to teach us."

On her 120-acre homestead high in the Colorado Rockies, beloved writer Pam Houston learns what it means to care for a piece of land and the creatures on it. Elk calves and bluebirds mark the changing seasons, winter temperatures drop to 35 below, and lightning sparks a 110,000-acre wildfire, threatening her century-old barn and all its inhabitants. Through her travels from the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska, she explores what ties her to the earth, the ranch most of all. Alongside her devoted Irish wolfhounds and a spirited troupe of horses, donkeys, and Icelandic sheep, the ranch becomes Houston's sanctuary, a place where she discovers how the natural world has mothered and healed her after a childhood of horrific parental abuse and neglect.

In essays as lucid and invigorating as mountain air, Deep Creek delivers Houston's most profound meditations yet on how "to live simultaneously inside the wonder and the grief…to love the damaged world and do what I can to help it thrive."

Ranch Almanac: Carving Rivers

Today I'll spend three hours carving rivers through ice with a pointed shovel and a maul, and by the day's end I'll have the blisters to prove it. It's to do with Deseo, who finds all manner of things scary and off- putting. Purple buckets, flapping jackets, the wind whispering through the pines.

The trough where the horses drink in winter is at the end of the pasture where all the water from the snowmelt drains toward Lime Creek. The trough is there because that's where the frost- free hydrant is, and the frost- free hydrant is there because it's the closest point to the house from which the water originates. The longer the line from the house to the frost- free hydrant, the higher the chance of the system freezing, and then we go back to hauling water again.

Unfortunately, when we get into the freeze- and- melt portion of the winter, which can last from early March to mid- May, a pond develops around the trough, which turns into a skating rink every...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Houston considers large and vexing questions that stem from climate change: "Would I give up my life to save the earth?" Her answers weave in and out of her essays, mostly as the physical details that move her toward gratitude and awe. She shows passion for the living and grieves the creatures she can no longer protect...continued

Full Review (901 words).

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(Reviewed by Chris Fredrick).

Media Reviews

Chicago Review of Books
Pam Houston is in possession of a deep, heart-achingly beautiful love for her own personal piece of earth. And as equally deep is her ability for hope. In a time where the world is either drowning, or burning, or being drilled-into, Houston’s outlook promises a better tomorrow—even if that means we’re no longer here.

Los Angeles Times
[G]ood writing can make you envious, no matter how foreign the terrain. Other times, you read a good memoir and find yourself wanting to track down the author and become friends. A third kind of book is so insightful and evocative, you shelve it beside other favorite and instructive titles. Deep Creek might just do all three.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Houston's vision find a solid place among the chronicles of quiet appreciation of the American wilderness, without the misanthropy that often accompanies the genre; her passion for the land and its inhabitants is irresistibly contagious.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A profound and inspiring love letter to one piece of Earth--and to the rest of it, as well.

Booklist
Starred Review. Always impressive, Houston is in striking form here. Her talent remains remarkable and her words extraordinarily affecting and effective.

Author Blurb Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild
There is so much beauty, wisdom, and truth in this book, I felt the pages almost humming in my hands. I was riveted and enlightened, inspired and consoled. This is a book for all of us, right now

Author Blurb Tommy Orange, author of There There
This book is endlessly wise, funny, and full of heart. To say that its clear-eyed, doom-laden, yet loving, message is important and timely would be an understatement. It is unapologetically sincere, utterly moving.

Author Blurb Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Misfit's Manifesto
This is the book we need right now to remind us how to endure, passionately. An unstoppable heart song.

Author Blurb Samantha Dunn, author of Not by Accident
Pam Houston is the rodeo queen of American letters. In Deep Creek, her voice has never been more fully realized, and her message never more important.

Author Blurb Camille T. Dungy, author of Guidebook to Relative Strangers
Full of wisdom, wit, and loving attention, Pam Houston's survey of her life and land should be required reading for anyone who loves this planet we call home.

Author Blurb B. K. Loren, author of Animal, Mineral, Radical
In the face of the world's turmoil, this book is utter clarity. In the face of the world's harshness, this book is a soft place to land…If you find yourself careening toward despair, pick up Deep Creek and read even just one page. The words there will lift you back to hope--not the sentimental kind, but the kind that can and does change the world for the better.

Author Blurb Craig Childs, author of Atlas of a Lost World
Houston has a great range of vision, and she's fun to read. She gets the land right…In this perfectly American memoir, a restless heart finds its place.

Reader Reviews

BuffaloGirlKS

Finding Beauty in a Difficult Life
A wonderful book. The abuse by her father and the neglect by her mother and the failure of all the adults in her life, except one, to try to rescue her was hard to handle, but the author's forgiveness enabled me to do so. As she said, Mother Earth ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Escalating Wildfires in the Western U.S.

Clouds of smoke from the Western Complex wildfire, June 27, 2013On June 5, 2013, lightning struck dead spruce trees 15 miles south of Pam Houston's ranch, sparking what would become known as West Fork Complex – one of the largest wildfires in Colorado history. West Fork Complex eventually consumed over 100,000 acres in Colorado and became one in a long and growing list of recent wildfires that have ravaged swaths of the Western U.S.

Wildfires in this area are on the increase, whether measured as a count of large fires, the number of acres burned, or a count of states setting records for single wildfire size. A few data points summarize this trend:

  • Over the past 30 years, forest fires have quadrupled in Arizona and Idaho; and doubled in California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and ...

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Readalikes

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