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110 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e S p r in g 2 0 0 5 mother’s family, a quiet refuge holding the whispers of Mimi’s early life and its traditional Italian and Jewish roots. Coming into womanhood, Lake moves in with her Aunt DeeDee, who has been a friend to her since girlhood. Lake has trouble understanding her own responses as she capriciously acts out the rituals of becoming a woman, compelled, more than she knows, by the powerful sexuality that made her mother’s life so complicated. The act of falling in love for Lake is the passage to mourning her past and trying to come to terms with all she has lost. Echoing the traditions of western American literature, Passanante’s novel shows how landscape suggests a negotiation between vast remote beauty and those who find themselves there, dealing with isolation and the forces of passion and will. Lake’s answers are not easy— the beauty of the West is a part of her but not an answer to questions about how to live, as her countercultural parents may have hoped for in the 1960s. She sees the West in all its gorgeous detail: “I knew I was seeing through an artist’s eye.” And the privilege of this vision affords her something she has always wanted: “Like a discriminating art­ ist, I, for the first time in my life, felt ready to make considered choices” (209). Ultimately, this is a novel about choice, the legacy of choice, and the fulfill­ ment of individual choice. Joy Passanante shows us how we resist and reclaim the people and places—with all their power and ambiguity—that make us who we are. Built for Speed: A Year in the Life of Pronghorn. By John A. Byers. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003. 256 pages, $24.95. Reviewed by Ben Quick Utah State University, Logan In Built for Speed: A Year in the Life of Pronghorn, John Byers narrates four seasons in the lives of the one hundred pronghorn antelope that roam the sagebrush steppe and forest edge of the National Bison Range in the Flathead Valley of northwestern Montana. Byers, a professional zoologist, has been studying pronghorns on the range since 1981, and his intimacy with the swift­ footed ungulates makes for a compelling account of the cycles and rituals of pronghorn life. Occasionally crossing into the lyrical, Byers successfully negoti­ ates the shaky ground where scientific credibility and literary merit mingle with an attention to craft too often missing from ecology-based writing. Woven into the pronghorn’s story are narratives of other Bison Range wildlife, glimpses of the natural history of the region, and just enough of the personal to allow readers to identify with Byers without becoming distracted from the plight of the pronghorn. What Byers does particularly well throughout the book is to tie the turning of the seasons and the resultant changes in the rhythms of pronghorn activity to elements of the natural world rather than calendrical time. For instance, in the chapter “Spring and the Sounds of the B o o k r e v ie w s Snipe,” the weeks critical for fawn survival begin with the noisy, aerial dis­ plays of male snipes and end during the early summer serenade of the western meadowlark. But while Byers’s language and descriptive clarity remain elevated and precise during these journeys into the non-pronghorn life and history of the refuge, the placement and dimensions of these forays lack consistency and completeness. For example, an entire chapter is devoted to the intricacies of the bison rut, while a scant few paragraphs are spent on the fascinating lifestyle of the prairie rattler. Both for its intrigue and its unfulfilled potential, one thread in this book stands out from the others. In the first chapter, Byers traces the evolutionary roots of pronghorn speed and endurance, which give the animals an unfair and—because of the sheer size of the discrepancy—largely unnecessary advan­ tage over present-day North American predators. The biological characteristics that produce this...


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pp. 110-111
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