‘Small Rocks Rising’ a vivid, spiritual tale
There’s something about vivid detail some writers get and others don’t.
And Susan Lang has it down. Her debut novel “Small Rocks Rising,” part of the University of Nevada’s Western Literature series, is the sort of book where prose and linguistic elegance take center stage – a solid work that builds a rhythm and a soul before it builds on plot and character development. Those ingredients are there of course, but they cook gradually. The focus here is on emotional evolution, of painting the landscape through gentle and informed verse. It’s not a potboiler, a crime drama, or a novel filled with fast scenes, but a silky tale of creative writing, and a tale of hardship in a world brimming with adventure, sexism and racism.
Ruth Farley plops her heart’s desire on a tract of beautiful, yet inhospitable land in California’s Mojave desert. She’s determined to conquer the wild tangle of earth she finds there and build her meager home, for the most part, by her own hands – no small feat for a alluring single woman in the late 1920s. Through this she experiences her own inner awakening, both sexually and spiritually, as she gets to know the earth and her new place in the world.
I particularly enjoyed Ruth’s struggles with a boulder she finds on her chunk of property and how she subsequently deals with the rather large distraction. For me, that boulder was as much a character in the tale, albeit stoic and silent, as the humans were. And even in the wilderness, where nature holds court, the spectre of racism against Native Americans and the raised eyebrows of sexism, have found a foothold.
Since its publication in 2002, Lang has written others in the Western Literature series. Farley herself appears in “Juniper Blue,” published in 2006 by the University of Nevada Press and in the 2008 novel “Moon Lily.” Besides writing, Lang (who celebrates a birthday this month) is also quite involved in the writing world and hosts scribes of all kinds, on a weekly basis, through her work with the Peregrine Book Company in Prescott, Arizona. She helped found the Hassayampa Institute for Creative Writing and also taught English – among her many other notable achievements.
Readers of Jane Kirkpatrick, author of “What Once We Loved” and other tales of courageous women, as well as fans of author Sandra Dallas, and of course Bronte, will find the perfect author in Lang’s well-scripted tales. And she is well worth the time.
About Patrick Whitehurst:
Patrick Whitehurst’s latest fiction projects include “Monterey Noir” and “Monterey Pulp” – the first and second volumes of the Barker Mysteries, featuring a homeless detective who lives with a pack of dogs on California’s Central Coast.
He is the author of the non-fiction books, “Williams” and “Grand Canyon’s Tusayan Village,” for Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series.
Whitehurst graduated with a B.S. in Journalism from Northern Arizona University and a minor in studio art. He lives in Prescott, Arizona, and is currently at work on “Monterey Confidential” – book three of the Barker Mysteries.