Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks
Grove Atlantic • $26.00 • ISBN 9780802121646
Published August 5, 2014
order from: BAM | B & NIndiebound | Amazon

August is First Fiction Month on! Click here to read all our First Fiction coverage on the blog; click here to read our most recent coverage of debut novels. 

Exhilarated by her newfound passion for archeology, Catherine Lemay is left feeling deflated when she's assigned to a dig in the sprawling sagebrush of 1950s Montana. Here, she must ascertain if there is anything significant worth saving in the deep pit of a canyon before plans for a major dam can progress. If she finds nothing of importance, the canyon, considered sacred to the local Crow Native Americans, will be drowned. Accustomed to thrilling, richly rewarding digs in England, Catherine is less than enthused by the endless, seemingly empty landscape before her. 

Yet as the dig progresses, Catherine becomes enamored with the culture of the Crow Native Americans, as well as the mysterious mustanger haunting the gorge. As Catherine delves deeper into the canyon, she uncovers revelations about her own desires that cast doubt on the future she's planned. 
Brooks' lush, evocative prose effectively conveys an untamed Western landscape, reminding the reader that not long ago, the West was truly wild. If you enjoyed Philipp Meyer's The Son, this debut novelist might be one to keep an eye on.
She tried to cram the terrain around her into some logical grid in her mind, a way to impose order on the most unruly, indecipherable tract of earth she'd ever seen.
Howard Carter dug for five years in the Valley of the Kings before finding what he was after. She of course expected nothing like the famous tomb, but five years. And he had a logical place to start. That was all she asked for.
She walked upriver to stretch her limbs. A gray rabbit broke from a sage clump, startling her less than the birds had. Coming here today had been a mistake. She needed someone who could give her a place to start. She needed an Indian. 
Minutes later any remaining optimism deflated along with the right rear tire. She muscled the steering wheel in a three-point turn to head back the way she'd come, heard the burst and pressured hiss. She put the gearbox in neutral and climbed out.

A sliver of gray stone pierced the rubber tread like a spike. She stood there and watched the tire empty and for the first time since the day she watched the English coast recede behind her, felt as though she might break down and cry. She fought the tears until the wave passed. 

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