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by C. Joseph Greaves
Torrey House Press, September 2019
263 pages
ISBN: 1948814129

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Greaves places us right smack in the middle of the Western conflict between ranchers, environmentalists, and the oil and gas industry. His main character in CHURCH OF THE GRAVEYARD SAINTS, Addie Decker, is a rancher's daughter who escaped what she saw as the limitations of her upbringing in Colorado to head to a university environmental program on the West Coast. When she returns for her grandmother's funeral, bringing her environmental professor and lover Bradley with her, she discovers that gas drilling is impacting her hometown in unexpected ways.

Upon her return, Addie finds that her old boyfriend is now married to and separated from her high school best friend. There are some simmering embers between Addie and Colt, compounding her professional conflicts with personal tension. Into this already taut situation, Greaves introduces a militia group intent on protecting the jobs created by the gas drillers. The militia takes over the Bureau of Land Management land where Addie's family's cattle range at the same time that Addie and Bradley are scouting out any environmental impacts of that drilling. Bradley becomes entrenched in the politics while Addie attempts to protect her livestock and herself. Before the dust settles, Addie, Colt, Bradley, and many others have all shown their true colors in the midst of action that turns deadly.

The Western landscape, both physical and emotional, plays a huge role in this book that really couldn't have taken place anywhere else. The characters are well developed and complex, and their individual relationships with the land help propel the novel forward. The author makes it clear through this characterization that there are good and bad people on all sides of the issue. The book is topical, bringing conflicts such as economic survival vs. environmental protection, local autonomy vs. national interests, and Native American needs vs. political expediency to life. At the same time, it works on a personal level as Addie discovers what is truly important and how she does or does not fit into a life in the West.

I have not read this author before, but since he has written of the West previously, I will have to go back and read his earlier work. I'm also looking forward to his next foray into the Western psyche.

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in rural Wyoming.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, October 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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