The Walk by William deBuys

May 10, 2007
Written by
The Walk
William deBuys

San Antonio: Trinity University Press
5/10/07
Hardcover/155 pages
ISBN: 978-159534027-6
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". . .one of the great nature writers of the American West."

William deBuys is one of the great nature writers of the American West. His new book is a meditation on loss and grief. Readers of deBuys’s great River of Traps (1990) will recognize the land, the cabin, and the neighbors that he brought to life so stunningly in that earlier book. But to call The Walk a sequel is to sell it short. This powerful, prayerful book shows us how our attentive relationship to the places we live can bring us through the failures and sorrows that metastasize inevitably as we grow older.

Two remarkable skills account for the extraordinary effect this book will have on any thoughtful reader. First, deBuys never takes his eye off the world around him. His year-round scrutiny of a small chunk of northern New Mexico, going on for more than thirty years now, has continually revealed to him details of that land and its inhabitants. He shows us a spring emerging from the ground where no spring has been visible for decades; a skull placed as a sign in the middle of a trail where only a coyote could have put it—everything he sees is new and fresh to us because of his other great skill, pulling personal significance out of the world around him through his astonishing control of the English language.

I love this book so much that I don’t want to spoil the reader’s experience by revealing too many details of the plot—and it does have a plot even though it is nonfiction. But I would be remiss in trying to describe this book if I did not say that much of it is about horses. Readers who remember deBuys’s heartbreaking account in River of Traps of the death of a horse will understand how much of mortality and its aftermath he can cram into such a scene. This book, happily, is populated with several horses of all ages and dispositions. As a reader with absolutely no interest in real horses, I am nevertheless touched and awed by the joy they embody for Bill deBuys.

Reviewer: Elizabeth Hadas

 

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