Winner of The Eludia Award, Elise Atchison's Crazy Mountain chronicles a rapidly changing place and community through the diverse and conflicting stories of the people who live in a fictional mountain valley in Montana over nearly half a century (1970-2015). As newly built roads carve through the primal wild, and the rural landscape transforms into subdivisions, McMansions and resorts, conflicts escalate between locals and newcomers, developers and environmentalists, the wealthy and the homeless. Through multiple perspectives we hear the voices of ranchers, real estate agents, carpenters, artists, New Agers, Native American activists, landscapers, movie stars, musicians, pizza delivery drivers, gun-toting fundamentalists, and others including Kate, a troubled young woman who becomes homeless over the course of the book and whose own story in many ways mirrors the destruction and resurrection of the land. These varied threads weave together into a rich tapestry of place, exploring timely themes of housing booms and homelessness, loss of open land to development, cultural clashes, and the correlation between how we treat the natural world and how we treat each other, especially the most vulnerable among us. What does it mean to lose a place we love, and what does it mean to gain from it? Perhaps it depends on perspective.
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Praise for Crazy Mountain:
"Crazy Mountain is a powerful story about possession and dispossession. Gritty and tough and gut wrenching, Atchison shows us how the West continues to be an explosive and embittered battleground, both sh*t show and love story. Crazy Mountain ignites a firestorm."
- Debra Magpie Earling, author of Perma Red and The Lost Journals of Sacajewea
"Crazy Mountain is a grand tale of the power of wilderness to heal wounds-scars on the land and the troubled humans who live in it ... This is a crazy and wonderful book."
- Doug Peacock, author of Grizzly Years and Was It Worth It, filmmaker, Disabled Veteran
"I absolutely love this kind of storytelling. Reminiscent of Winesburg, Ohio and Olive Kitteridge, this collection blooms from the diverse points of view held within Crazy Mountain's boundaries. And the stories are the real thing-complex, sophisticated stories of the American West, not the tired mythologies that sadly continue to prevail. From subdivisions to resorts to the homeless, from wilderness to ski slopes to private land, we find an accurate, sensitive, and nuanced view of rural Montana."
- Laura Pritchett, winner of PEN USA and author of The Blue Hour and Stars Go Blue
"In the Mountain West, the landscape is a constant. It's the people who change. Ranchers, realtors, carpenters, painters, archeologists, bad-ass baristas ... in this artful, lyrical, deeply moving novel, Elise Atchison follows a piece of landscape through several lifetimes, capturing the dramatic complexity of the disrupted West through a full cast of characters, one lens after another. It's a full-time job, trying to make sense of the West these days. I find that this extraordinary book helps make that job a little easier."
- Allen Morris Jones, author of A Bloom of Bones and Sweeney on the Rocks
"In Crazy Mountain the lives of those who people landscapes of beauty and despair are multilayered, evocative, and rich with unforeseen mystery. Elise Atchison's prose is a vessel of precision and depth, unafraid to draw the reader into the more shadowed crucibles of life and help us emerge with light in our hands. In stories that cover nearly five decades in the life of a mountain and its residents, there is the wildness of the human heart shaped by the wildness that surrounds us. May you take this book home, cherish it as I did, and find in it the treasure it gives without measure ... that of 'the wildland that has been lost, and all that remains.'"
- Shann Ray, author of American Copper and Sweetclover
"With great insight, intelligence, and intimacy, Elise Atchison explores a singular dilemma: How do we live in paradise without destroying the very thing we love? Set in a place changing so rapidly that its inhabitants no longer recognize the landscape, one another, or even themselves, these individual narratives of love and loss, celebration and lament, interweave as the dreams of one generation give way to the disillusionment of the next. A story of human intrusion and intervention, in which moments of brutality give way to gestures of charity, Crazy Mountain serves as a reminder that what we think we own may not be ours after all."
- Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men and In the Wilderness