Laura Pritchett’s first novel, Sky Bridge, is set in "Nowhere, Colorado," on the ranchland east of the plains town of Lamar. In this tiny place assaulted by big forces — climate change, the global economy, federal policies — teenage narrator Libby finds the prospects slim: "… all my old schoolmates are either doing drugs or working minimum wage or in jail ... "
But Libby, her younger
sister Tess, their mother Kay, and Baxter, the rancher who provides
Kay both a job and a ramshackle house, have neither time nor
inclination to analyze the forces that are "crashing up their
lives." They have only hope, compassion and a stubborn
determination to cope with what must be coped with, including the
results of their own bad decisions or inattention.
these results is baby Amber, the consequence of Tess’ casual
one-nighter with Simon, a proud member of the Cowboy Christian
Fellowship. The baby is saved from abortion by Libby, who promises
to raise her.
Putting cans of formula away in the
cupboard, reluctant new grandmother Kay observes, " ‘I
don’t know why they take the thing that’s most
important to an infant and kill us with the price.’
‘Who?’ Libby inquires.
she says, her hands flying around to the outside world."
Pritchett perfectly captures the rhythms and emphases of everyday
speech in this unpretentious novel. Her characters may have been
abandoned to their own devices by a government owned and operated
by multi-national corporations. But they retain a dignity that
makes them impossible to dismiss. As Libby’s employer, Frank,
says, "People look out for each other."
It is in that
"looking out" that Pritchett, and Libby, find hope. By
novel’s end, Libby has learned this: "I’ll figure out
how to be truer: to let people go if they need to be let go of, and
to hold on tight if that’s what’s called for. I will
pay attention, so I can cross each human heart that comes across my
path, cross it as true as I can."
Crossing hearts on Colorado's plains
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