Stony Mesa Sa­gas

Chip Ward Tor­rey House Press (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $17.95 (395pp) 978-1-937226-85-5

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - ROBIN FAR­RELL EDMUNDS

Ward’s hu­mor­ous book uses the Amer­i­can South­west and its in­hab­i­tants to tell a beau­ti­ful story about a place, peo­ple, and time.

A small town in the Amer­i­can South­west and its di­verse denizens are the fo­cal point of the three over­lap­ping, in­ter­twin­ing sto­ries of Chip Ward’s sar­donic, smart, and richly de­scrip­tive Stony Mesa Sa­gas.

The sus­pected mur­der of a wealthy busi­ness­man cen­ters the first story, which in­tro­duces mem­o­rable char­ac­ters who in­habit the re­main­der of the book. They in­clude Luna Waxwing and Hoppy Ziller, two ar­dent en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists who meet and are ar­rested dur­ing a protest, and Elias and Grace Buch­man, baby boomers who’ve cho­sen to re­tire in Stony Mesa.

These char­ac­ters find them­selves of­ten­times at odds with the lo­cals, peo­ple who can proudly and de­fi­antly trace their her­itage back sev­eral gen­er­a­tions. Con­flict—whether it’s be­tween the old and the new, the ed­u­cated and not-so-ed­u­cated, or those who abuse the land and those who wish to main­tain it—is an over­ar­ch­ing theme and is ad­dressed in a folksy, tongue-incheek style by a mas­ter­ful sto­ry­teller.

Each char­ac­ter’s history is in-depth and rich, and de­scrip­tions of the deserts, val­leys, and canyons in and around Stony Mesa are col­or­ful and vivid. The open­ing chap­ter is loud and wild, though the tone set­tles down to a more thought­ful and rev­er­ent one in the en­su­ing pages. The town res­i­dents and their ac­tions re­main larger than life.

Con­tem­po­rary top­ics are ex­plored thor­oughly—with both thought­ful­ness and ram­bunc­tious hu­mor—and in­clude cli­mate change, pol­i­tics, an­i­mals, and food. An om­ni­scient nar­ra­tor tells it like it re­ally is as towns­peo­ple, ranch­ers, mem­bers of the One True Church, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, and Na­tive Amer­i­cans adapt to liv­ing to­gether.

The time line tilts, and the chronol­ogy of events is a bit askew in the first sec­tion. There’s a bit of an aha mo­ment when the re­al­iza­tion of this hits. Also sur­pris­ing are covert, lightly dis-

guised re­la­tion­ships be­tween var­i­ous char­ac­ters, con­cealed un­til just the right mo­ments.

Stony Mesa Sa­gas is a smart and hu­mor­ous take on na­tional top­ics of in­ter­est; it uses the Amer­i­can South­west and its in­hab­i­tants to tell a beau­ti­ful story about a place, peo­ple, and time.

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