Monday, December 15, 2014

Stars Go Blue

Stars Go Blue
Laura Pritchett

Stars Go Blue: A Novel

Genre: Fiction

Summary (from the publisher): Laura Pritchett is an award-winning author who has quickly become one of the west’s defining literary voices. We first met hardscrabble ranchers Renny and Ben Cross in Laura’s debut collection, and now in Stars Go Blue, they are estranged, elderly spouses living on opposite ends of their sprawling ranch, faced with the particular decline of a fading farm and Ben’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. He is just on the cusp of dementia, able to recognize he is sick but unable to do anything about it —the notes he leaves in his pockets and around the house to remind him of himself, his family, and his responsibilities are no longer as helpful as they used to be. Watching his estranged wife forced into care-taking and brought to her breaking point, Ben decides to leave his life with whatever dignity and grace remains.

As Ben makes his decision, a new horrible truth comes to light: Ray, the abusive husband of their late daughter is being released from prison early. This opens old wounds in Ben, his wife, his surviving daughter, and four grandchildren. Branded with a need for justice, Ben must act before his mind leaves him, and sets off during a brutal snowstorm to confront the man who murdered his daughter. Renny, realizing he is missing, sets off to either stop or witness her husband’s act of vengeance.

Stars Go Blue is a triumphant novel of the American family, buffered by the workings of a ranch and the music offered by the landscape and animal life upon it.

Review:  This book reminded me of Plainsong by Kent Haruf, and in fact, the author thanks Haruf in her acknowledgement section.  I found that interesting.

I don't know quite what to make of this book.  I didn't exactly love it, because the subject matter is so difficult and the characters are so sad, but it was moving and powerful and thought-provoking.  And I think it might be the kind of book that I remember for a long time, but it's hard to say now because I just finished it this morning.

Tackling the depressing subject of Alzheimer's, this novel is written from the perspective of an elderly rancher with dementia as well as from the point of view of his crotchety caretaker wife.  Both characters made me want to cry - Ben, because of his moments of clarity where he realizes what is happening to him and is determined to face the rest of his life with strength and dignity.  And Renny, because she struggles to care for Ben despite challenges they have faced in the past and the difficulties of dealing with his forgetfulness and rage. 

The descriptions of the ranch, ranch life, and the Colorado scenery are hauntingly beautiful, adding to the sense of desolation.

Rating: 4 stars

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