Cover image for Winter range
Winter range
Davis, Claire, 1949-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Picador USA, [2000]

Physical Description:
262 pages ; 25 cm
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In "Winter Range", the Intimate Details of Ranching and small-town life are woven into the suspenseful story of three people struggling to survive, to belong, and to love in the chillingly bleak landscape of eastern Montana.

Ike Parsons is a small-town sheriff whose life is stable and content; his wife Pattiann is a rancher's daughter with a secret past. But when Ike tries to help a hard-luck cattleman named Chas Stubblefield, he triggers Chas's resentment and finds his home and his wife targeted by a plot for revenge.

Author Notes

Winter Range is Claire Davis' first novel. She has been published in the Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, and elsewhere.

She has received a Pushcart Prize for her short fiction.

She lives in Idaho.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Landscape has a way of asserting itself in Montana fiction, whether it's in the work of Ivan Doig, Larry Watson, or James Crumley--or in Davis' gripping first novel, which bears stylistic and thematic connections to both Watson and Doig but is in no way derivative of either. Ike Parsons, sheriff of a small ranching town in eastern Montana, is an outsider, but he's married to a local girl and has a reputation for fairness. Both his marriage and his reputation are put to the test when Chas Stubblefield, former lover of Ike's wife, Pattiann, goes broke and lets his cattle starve in the snow. When Ike intercedes with a court order to take over the ranch and put the animals out of their misery, local reaction is mixed: everyone shares the horror of the starving cattle, but Montana ranchers value their independence above all; a man's stock is his own no matter what. As the conflict deepens, Stubblefield himself begins to unravel, plotting revenge against the town and attempting to force himself back into Pattiann's life. The inevitable tragedy seems driven as much by the unforgiving land and sky as it does by the emotions of the embattled characters. The snows of winter and the thaws and ice storms of early spring alternately imprison and empower the dwarfed humans, whose attempts to connect with one another appear both feeble and noble in the teeth of the "vast, ice-locked landscape." Davis is a writer of great lyrical power, but she knows her place. Her lyricism never calls attention to itself but remains steadfastly in the service of her story, her people, and her setting. This is an outstanding debut in what is shaping up as a strong year for first novels. --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

The New West is the setting for an old-fashioned power struggle in Davis's entrancing debut. Sheriff Ike Parsons, 42 and married to fiery redhead Pattiann, patiently patrols a small Montana town whose cattle outnumber its residents. Pattiann, who always loved the ranching life, was reluctant to settle into her role as a townie's wife, and is bitter over her father's decision to pass on the family ranch to her younger brother. It seems a modern Western woman is powerless, except in the sexual realm, which Pattiann discovered as a rebellious, promiscuous teen. Chas Stubblefield was one of the many boys she drunkenly coupled with in her youth, and 16 years later, when Chas comes to her for sympathy, she fools herself into thinking that she and the down-and-out rancher might still strike sparks. A lonely bachelor, Chas lacks business savvy, and can't afford enough feed for his livestock during a particularly harsh winter. Compassionate (but ignorant of Chas's past with Pattiann), Ike offers to help Chas, fully expecting the stubborn, explosive man to swallow his pride. Chas's situation is indeed horrifying: his cattle are already dead or starving, and bankrupt Chas lives off the meat. Ike conceives a plan to mercy-kill the surviving animals, provoking Chas, now helpless to stop the law from taking everything he owns, to settle the score, even if it means hurting the woman he loves. Crisp details establish place and characters with authoritative clarity. As the characterization deepens, so do the suspense and the reader's empathy for decent people trapped by human flaws and fate. The narrative, moving surefootedly toward its denouement, raises serious questions about the law, love and ethics in a tough rural community. With prose as crystalline and clean as snow on the Montana prairie, Davis establishes herself as a writer to watch. Author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

During a particularly harsh winter in Montana ranching country, both man and beast struggle to survive. Sheriff Ike Parsons, a newcomer, must decide whether to buck the local mores and remove a nearly bankrupt rancher's starving cattle or to ignore the cruelty and let the rancher dispose of the cattle in his own way. Chas Stubblefield blames his problems on the sheriff, the bankers, and the townspeople, who cannot or will not help him. Ike tries to help Chas, only to provoke his anger and sense of humiliation. As Chas plots to exact revenge on his tormentors, he looks for comfort to his former lover Pattiann, Ike's wife, drawing Ike and Pattiann deeper into his tailspin of self-destruction and violence. This debut novel by a Pushcart Prize winner brilliantly weaves the intimate everyday details of ranching and small-town life into the story of three very complicated people struggling to survive, to belong, and to love in a chillingly bleak landscape. Davis's descriptions of the land are breathtaking. Highly recommended for public libraries and where interest warrants.DKaren Anderson, Superior Court Law Lib., Phoenix (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.