Bonelight: Ruin and Grace

  Bonelight: Ruin and Grace in the New Southwest is Mary Sojourner's timely and occasionally quirky reckoning of loss and resilience. Throughout these 50 vignettes, some new, some previously published, the Flagstaff, Ariz., author and High Country News contributor weaves personal stories into a compelling history of her hometown's growing pains.

Bonelight's intimate musings on environmental destruction and greed strike tones both elegiac and hopeful, answering the promise of "ruin" and "grace" in the subtitle. New readers will delight in Sojourner's lyrical prose; a particularly fine rhapsody captures the precise moment when a desert obsidian flow morphs into a rock serpent under the cold full moon.

Sojourner writes in sympathy with those struggling to protect beloved places, from wilderness to local bookstores, and to avenge places scarred by the fangs of "compromise." In "Super Downtown," Sojourner takes readers along on her afternoon rounds to repair jewelry, buy food, browse at the newsstand, all the while chatting up proprietors like the old friends they've become. Then she slyly challenges Wal-Mart, "slouching like a rough beast" toward Flagstaff, to match the intimacy, value and efficiency of the Downtown economy.

In "Wild Heart," she crows over hard-won victories in battles against monied interests for whom a little more (land, profit, pollution) is never enough * but cautions that many Southwestern environmental battles demand the fortitude to outlive the enemy. If you lose, says Sojourner, never forget. And nurture hope, focusing it onto the next beloved place ... and the next.

Bonelight is by turns dark, curmudgeonly and inspiring.

Bonelight: Ruin and Grace in the New Southwest, by Mary Sojourner. University of Nevada Press, 2002. Hardcover: $21.95. 144 pages.

Copyright © 2002 HCN and Renee Guillory

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