'Badluck Way' a deeply satisfying read

Book Review: "Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West" by Bryce Andrews (Simon & Schuster)

Just reading the prologue of this haunting memoir, "Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West," by Bryce Andrews, joining him while he sits "alone in the cold, crystalline night, thirty miles from a town of any consequence, staring out across the seldom-traveled track [they] on the Sun Ranch called Badluck Way," was enough to tell me I had found a story that would hold me fast until I finished. I savored the language Andrews used to paint me into his picture as I joined him on the porch of his cabin, and I, too, heard the "whine of a diesel engine spooling up from the south." I came to understand why he "hated the crevices between the wall logs" that "gobbled up incandescent light like candy and soaked up most of the glow from the cabins few small windows."

But Bryce Andrews is not living out in the wildness because he hates it, quite the opposite. He loves the job he has taken with a "ranch committed to conservation and improving the health of the land for livestock and livestock through progressive management." He loves knowing that just beyond the ranch fences lies the true wild with its grizzlies and elk and deer and, of course, the wolves he hopes to see someday. He finds joy riding through deep dark forests in this "place removed not just in space but in time," where he tops a hill and comes upon an elk herd of 500 below, "spread across the grass and sage like a painter's spill."

The sweat and blood he sheds in challenging work to mend fences and tend cattle and all else needed to keep the grass-fed cattle safe is deeply satisfying. Except, he begins to learn, co-existing with wild creatures is far from easy and his life on Sun Ranch is put into jeopardy when he discovers signs that ranch heifers are becoming the wolves' prey. What follows, like everything that came before, makes for riveting reading.

- Reviewed by Susan Lang, Peregrine Book Company event coordinator