This engrossing novel by acclaimed author Susan Lang continues the saga of Ruth Farley, the fiercely independent young woman who was the protagonist of Small Rocks Rising, published by the University of Nevada Press in 2002. Ruth is still on her homestead at the end of a rugged canyon in California’s Mojave Desert, still struggling to survive on her own and to recover from a brutal rape and the murder of her lover. Now she must also face the responsibility of motherhood.
The ensuing story expands Ruth’s world to encompass the panorama of Depression-era Southern California—miners and ranchers hanging on until times are better; Indians trying to preserve their ancient culture and identity; Okies, vagrants, and breadlines; the wealth and glitter of the movie industry; and narrow-minded small-town gossips.
Ruth’s life also expands as she adjusts to motherhood, trying to maintain her autonomy and isolation and trying to preserve the tenuous web that links her to the seductive ruthlessness of the desert and to its ancient people and their wisdom. Ruth is one of the most engaging characters in recent fiction, complex and contradictory, stubborn and vulnerable, passionately in love with her austere desert home. Lang tells her story, the saga of a fully modern woman seeking her own identity and destiny against the turbulent, colorful setting of the rapidly changing twentieth-century West.
“Susan Lang has created a hard character to love. Ruth Farley is bristly, impulsive, confused, passionate, and stubborn—and a perfect character for the harshness of the desert and the difficulties of the era. Ruth puzzles at the world’s changes—roads are paved, electric lines go up, a frontier movie town gets built smack in the middle of a valley—while she insists on living in the old, self-sustaining way. In fact, although Ruth has several lovers, she only has one true love: her land. Which makes Juniper Blue a very unusual, and touching, love story.” —Lisa Ann Verge, Historical Novels Review, August 2006
“To Lang’s credit, Ruth stays in character with her practical, physical, reactionary, stubborn, straight-speaking, passionate, changeable, not-always-likeable persona; and she avoids floating off into spiritual, supernatural or man-dependent realms. Lang doesn’t freight the blue horse with symbolic or spiritual meaning (although readers could find it themselves); she doesn’t assign unrealistic spiritual power to the Yuiatei people; and she doesn’t fall back on romance-genre convention…. But real love in Juniper Blue occurs between Ruth and her land, and Lang depicts it in polished, authentic, evocative prose.” —Christine Wald-Hopkins, Tucson Weekly, 18 May 2006
“What a double gift: the return of Southwestern novelist, Susan Lang AND the return of her heroine, Ruth Farley. Both Susan and Ruth epitomize the tender fierceness required to live in wilderness—wilderness of the heart, wilderness of spirit and those intersections of desert light, rock and longing that can destroy a woman, or restore her to her life. Juniper Blue came to me at a time when I had to face the impact of a hiking fall, metaphorically and physically. Ruth Farley reminded me that where there is breath, there is hope; where there is courage, there is deep love. Where there is desert beneath my feet, there are blessings beyond measure.” —Mary Sojourner
“Juniper Blue is a deeply felt and passionately rendered novel about a hard-luck woman named Ruth who lets the complicated beauty of the desert’s wild lands and creatures teach her how to find the resilient center of herself. The novel gave me intimate access to an unfamiliar time (the 1930s) place (California’s canyon country) and people (the Yuiatei Indians), but I recognized the struggles, joys and desires of a woman who could have lived in any time, in any landscape that invaded and informed her heart.” —Pam Houston
“The compassionate courage of this woman and her two children vibrates on every page, making the novel sing out with hopefulness during a tragic and heartbreaking time. We need Susan Lang’s vision of caring for the future of our earth.” —John Nichols
“It’s a story with all the old virtues—strong characters involved in vivid incidents, surviving wounds and partial healings . . . I came out of the reading sorry to be finished . . .” —William Kittredge
Theodore Waddell, Snake River Paints #6, 2004, Oil encaustic on canvas 54”x48”