Summary and book reviews of Site Fidelity by Claire Boyles

Site Fidelity

by Claire Boyles

Site Fidelity by Claire Boyles X
Site Fidelity by Claire Boyles
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Jun 2021, 208 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

Book Summary

Set in the western sagebrush steppe, Site Fidelity is a vivid, intimate, and deeply human exploration of life on the shifting terrain of our changing planet.

Firmly rooted in the modern American West, Site Fidelity follows women and families who feel the instinctual, inexplicable pull of a home they must work to protect from the effects of economic inequity and climate catastrophe. A seventy-four-year-old nun turns to eco-sabotage to stop a fracking project. A woman delivers her own baby in a Nevada ghost town. A young farmer hides her chicken flock from the government during a bird flu epidemic. An ornithologist returns home to care for her rancher father and gets caught up trying to protect a breeding group of endangered Gunnison sage grouse.

In lean, lyrical prose, Claire Boyles evokes the bleakness and beauty of our threatened western landscapes. Spanning the decades from the 1970s to a plausible near future, this knockout debut introduces unforgettable characters who must confront the challenges of caregiving and loss alongside the very practical impacts of fracking, water rights law, and other agricultural policies. Site Fidelity is a vivid, intimate, and deeply human exploration of life on the shifting terrain of our changing planet.



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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I appreciated the focus on blue-collar people like miners and oil field workers, as well as state or national park staff: those who work directly on the land rather than dictating about it from afar. It reminded me most of Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich, as well as Barbara Kingsolver's early fiction set in the Southwest, but I can also imagine Boyles developing the dual theme of family bonds and the environment in a similar way to T.C. Boyle, Jonathan Franzen and Richard Powers...continued

Full Review Members Only (767 words).

(Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Media Reviews

Kenyon Review
[Boyles's] settings exist as characters in their own right, carefully detailed, possessed of complex backstories, and imbued with definite, sometimes dangerous, agency...Site Fidelity bursts with pleasures―not just its lush attention to place but its frequent moments of humor...as well as the delightful frissons of surprise that shiver off the pages each time we catch a reference to a previous story.

Kirkus Reviews
Set against a larger backdrop of energy debates, environmental disasters, and climate change, Boyles' stories are skillfully layered explorations of the politics and power plays within families, workplaces, and communities. Yet this collection's true mastery is in the rich and varied voices of the characters and in the small moments in which they reach for hope despite all that has crumbled around them. Deliberate and compelling.

Publishers Weekly
Boyles's debut collection bristles with intelligence and determination...At their best, the stories of women dealing with messes men left behind evoke the characters' grit and hope as well as a sense of place, colored in by their concern for the environment. Fans of Annie Proulx and John Sayles will love this.

Booklist (starred review)
[These] stories rise above on multiple levels: rich settings both integrated and essential, compelling characters navigating life's most formative crossroads, the tapestry effect of skillfully woven elements, and emotional intelligence in breathtaking spades...Boyles both respects the intelligence of her reader and brings heart and soul to the page

Author Blurb Kimberly King Parsons, National Book Award–longlisted author of Black Light
Attuned to harsh, western beauty and full of unforgettable, resilient characters, Site Fidelity is a bold and deeply affecting debut collection. Boyles writes with grace, style, and tremendous compassion about family, activism, and the undeniable impact (for better or worse) human beings have on the planet.

Author Blurb Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek
If we are to survive, even the next several decades, we need to feminize the myth of the American West…Claire Boyle's stories do just that, the tenacious, unsinkable women who inhabit them no longer content to sit back and let powerful men of industry make us all extinct. For anyone who loves and grieves the West, who isn't afraid to open their eyes and see her distress, these beautifully forged stories are as essential as water.

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Beyond the Book

Sagebrush Steppe and the Gunnison Sage-Grouse

Gunnison sage-grouse The Gunnison sage-grouse, integral to the story "Ledgers" in Claire Boyles' Site Fidelity, are dependent on their natural habitat, the sagebrush steppe of the Western United States. A steppe is a grassland region that does not receive enough rain to support trees. The semi-arid climate means that only shrubs and short grasses can grow. The temperature varies dramatically between summer and winter, as well as between day and night, much like in deserts. The world's largest swathe of grassland is the Eurasian steppe, which stretches from Hungary to China, but smaller areas of steppe can be found around the world. Globally, many steppes have been lost to agriculture and pasture, which can lead to erosion and degradation of the soil.

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