Behavior and Training

Book Review: Deep Creek

Deep Creek, by Pam Houston, is a book that could ruin your day, in the best of all possible ways. Once you start reading, all you want is to continue doing so. I love this book, love it deeply and completely. It is everything a book should be: Brilliantly written, flat out honest, rich with a sense of place in the Colorado Rockies, layered with her love of the land, her dogs, her donkeys, her stranded elk babies and frozen water tanks.

A committed bookseller at my favorite bookstore, Arcadia Books in Spring Green, Wisconsin, said she thought I’d like the book. It reminded her of The Education of Will. Both are centered on “the land,” in the sense that Aldo Leopold meant when he used the term to describe our most meaningful community–the soil, the animals, the water, the people, the air–everything, all of us, because we can’t really separate one from the other.

Both books also brim with a love of animals and plants and how bitter cold nights and howling coyotes make you feel more alive. Both involve authors with burdensome pasts that were in part healed by our connection to where we live–to winter blizzards as much to spring flowers, to lambs dying in your arms as much as to bluebirds. I don’t want to stretch the comparison too far, because Pam Houston is a professional writer who teaches writing to geeks like me, and is as brave as anyone I’ve ever met, while I settle somewhere on the cowardly side of the spectrum.

Here’s what Cheryl Strayed, of Wild fame, said about Deep Creek:

“There is so much beauty, wisdom, and truth in this book, I felt the pages almost humming in my hands. I was riveted and enlightened, inspired and consoled. This is a book for all of us, right now.”

“. . . humming in my hands. . .” Isn’t that beautiful? There are some other stunningly written quotes about the book. They themselves are lovely to read. (Blurbing a great book is actually very hard to do. I can’t tell you how much thought and how many drafts go into our final versions.)

Here is one of my favorite passages from the book:

“And if I say, even so, that it has been only the rare human who has given me an animal’s worth of love back, it’s not because I underestimate the power of human love. It’s because I have been lucky…


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