Swift Dam, reviewed by Rose di Maris

Gustafson has a singular prose style that is neither imitative nor boring, but deeply and brilliantly evocative of the place, pace of life, and culture of the truly unique part of America in which this story is set.


He captures the feeling of a place, not with paint or music but with words, through deliberate selection, arrangement, and sometimes repetition of those words.

This prose style is likely to be so unlike any other you have encountered in contemporary literature that you may be tempted to resist it at first, but if you surrender to it and let the author take you where he wants to, you won’t be disappointed.

This slim novel gathers momentum and becomes more fascinating as it progresses–my favorite section is the chapter called Recapitulation, right at the book’s heart, and achieves an ending that is deeply satisfying, resolving mysteries and illuminating the truth about relationships between compelling, carefully drawn and lifelike characters.

Gustafson soars when he shows his gift for subtlety, conveying volumes of information and history in a character’s slightest gesture or sparsely-spoken words.

Among other things, this book is a meditation on animals and human relationships to them, land, the natural world, invisible communities, love and, perhaps most of all, the long-term, rippling, multi-generational effects of large-scale events on small, individual lives.

Those interested in animals (particularly horses), veterinary practice as it relates to livestock and rural communities, 20th century Native American and/or Blackfoot culture, Montana, and depictions of male friendship will find this particularly engaging. Even if you approach the book without those interests, its literary quality will likely capture you.


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