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Miracle Country: A Memoir

by Kendra Atleework

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1111,300,517 (5)None
"Miracle Country captures one family's spirit and losses in a harsh landscape that has been shaped and exploited over hundreds of years, and chronicles the author's journey as she realizes that there's nowhere else in the country, no matter how green and welcoming, that feels like home"--



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The Eastern Sierra is a land of wild winds and wildfires. In 1892, Mary Austin arrived at the Eastern Sierra and wrote, "You will find it forsaken of most things but beauty and madness and death and God."

Once Paiute harvested fields of wild rye and love grass, before ranchers arrived to summer their stock. The cattle devoured the crops and the First People starved. Bill Mulholland stole lake water to grow Los Angeles. Drought depletes the wells while the streams are diverted to LA.

A woman from the Great Lakes and a man from the California coast were drawn to the sublimity of the high desert. They met in a band and went on a hike. They birthed two girls and adopted a brown-skinned son.

It's hard to know how to fix a smashed world at sixteen, at fourteen, at eleven.~ from Miracle Country by Kendra Atleework

Their idyllic life was smashed with their matriarch's early death, spiraling the children into their private hells from which their father could not save them.

Atleework left for LA and then the MidWest. The hills burned. The dust blew arsenic. Her father's well dried up. But the beauty of Atleework's homeland brought her back from her wanderings.

Whiskey's for drinking. Water's for fighting over.~from Miracle Country by Kendra Attleework

The environmental cost for the growth of cities is central to the story and raises ethical questions about water rights. "We live in a landscape damaged beyond repair," Atleework writes, "and we see our loss magnified the world over."

The story of water in Owens Valley...was a sad story of wrong done, a near tall tale with a suit-coated villian and cowboy herons. ~from Miracle Country by Kendra Atleework

The valley's discovery by American soldiers and the settlers eager to displace (or annihilate) the native people is the story of European attitudes that 'built' the country while also destroying it.

Atleework's Miracle Country was a pleasure to read, gorgeous in prose, intimate as a memoir, and wide-ranging in its portrait of a land and its people. Highly recommended.

I was given a free ebook by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. ( )
  nancyadair | May 26, 2020 |
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