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Hell's Bottom, Colorado by Laura Pritchett
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Hell's Bottom, Colorado (2001)

by Laura Pritchett

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This little book, in spite of its tough events, was a pleasure to read. It links together the stories of various members of an extended family on or about the ranch that the grandparents still live on- albeit at opposite ends. The children, grandchildren, in-laws, animals and hangers on are described sparely and always with reference to the landscape that they live on, and find so much meaning in. Each chapter would make a stand alone short story, but together it is worth more than the sum of its parts. ( )
  Ireadthereforeiam | Dec 21, 2017 |
On Hell's Bottom Ranch, a section of land below the Front Range, there are women like Renny who prefer a "little Hell swirled with their Heaven" and men like Ben, her husband, who's "gotten used to smoothing over Renny's excesses." As I was reading, I recalled often a quote from Stars Go Blue that Renny knew the ranch like a chart, but Ben knew it like a poem. That theme is apparent here, too. The ranch has been the site of the births of the Cross children, and of Rachel’s tragic death – just as it has been the site of untold births and deaths of livestock.

Pritchett’s format here is a collection of related short stories which read like a novel. Hell’s Bottom, Colorado is a tribute to life on the Cross ranch – its harmony, its vision, and its heartache. Beautifully written, with characters so relatable I feel I know them personally – Pritchett has established herself as a favourite author, and Hell’s Bottom Ranch a favourite place. Highly, highly recommended. ( )
1 vote lit_chick | Aug 7, 2016 |
Focusing on one family, ranchers in Colorado, each story gives us profound truths - about the pain others can cause through violence and simple misunderstanding, about our capacity to nurture both anger and joy, about contentment and desire and the conflict between the two. Pritchett's writing is spare and the stories short but not lacking. The back of the book says it well, "Her characters convey the universal truth that family relationships, like Hell's Bottom Ranch itself, are marked by moments of pain and glimpses of paradise."

This slim collection of under 150 pages can be read in a single sitting but don't race through it. There is much to be savored and reflected upon. ( )
3 vote katiekrug | Apr 30, 2015 |
Wow. A stunningly beautiful collection of linked short stories chronicling episodes in the lives of Colorado ranchers, Ben and Renny Cross, and their children and grandchildren. Spare, heartbreaking, and definitely not for the faint of heart.

Fans of Kent Haruf, Annie Proulx, and Larry Watson (and like Watson's Montana 1948, Hell's Bottom, Colorado was also a winner of the Milkweed National Fiction Prize) should give this one a look. Published in 2001, it seems to have been sadly overlooked. ( )
2 vote coppers | May 11, 2014 |
"Billy was trying to teach me how to shoot last week. I didn’t get very close to any prairie dogs, but we laughed hard then and that makes me smile."


This award winning first novel is a moving collection of stories told in the perspective of members of a ranching family who live under the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.
  AmronGravett | Apr 11, 2013 |
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For James,
who adds to whatever he touches
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Renny stands in the gravel driveway between the house and barn, her hands jammed into the pockets of a blood-splattered jacket.
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