Cover image for The high divide : a novel
The high divide : a novel
Enger, Lin, author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014.
Physical Description:
332 pages : map ; 24 cm
Abandoned by her husband and her two sons who went out to search for him, Gretta Pope must follow her family across the rugged badlands of 1880s Montana.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
FICTION Adult Fiction Western
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
FICTION Adult Fiction Western
FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
FICTION Adult Fiction Western

On Order



"A deeply moving, gripping novel about one man's quest for redemption and his family's determination to learn the truth . . . Layered with meaning, this remarkable novel deserves to be read more than once. The High Divide proves Enger's chops as a masterful storyteller." -- Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise

In 1886, Gretta Pope wakes one morning to discover that her husband is gone. Ulysses Pope has left his family behind on the far edge of Minnesota's western prairie with only the briefest of notes and no explanation for why he left or where he's headed. It doesn't take long for Gretta's young sons, Eli and Danny, to set off after him, following the scant clues they can find, jumping trains to get where they need to go, and ending up in the rugged badlands of Montana.

Gretta has no choice but to search for her sons and her husband, leading her to the doorstep of a woman who seems intent on making Ulysses her own. Meanwhile, the boys find that the closer they come to Ulysses' trail, the greater the perils that confront them, until each is faced with a choice about whom he will defend, and who he will become.

Enger's breathtaking portrait of the vast plains landscape is matched by the rich expanse of his characters' emotional terrain, as pivotal historical events--the bloody turmoil of expansionism, the near total demise of the bison herds, and the subjugation of the Plains Indians--blend seamlessly with the intimate story of a family's sacrifice and devotion.

"Lin Enger sets out from the conventions of the traditional Western and brings the reader into new emotional territory, that of the soul of an exquisitely drawn American family. Told with caring patience and precise language, The High Divide is a novel to get lost in." --James Scott, author of The Kept

" The High Divide, a novel about a family in peril, is haunting and tense but leavened by considerable warmth and humanity. Lin Enger writes with durable grace about a man's quest for redemption and the human capacity for forgiveness." --Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The high plains of the upper Midwest in the late nineteenth century provide the backdrop for this nicely crafted story of family redemption, set amid the disappearance of the buffalo and the prelude to and aftermath of Custer's Indian campaigns. Ulysses Pope leaves his wife and two young sons behind in Minnesota in a search for what we find out later is, in effect, his own soul. The sons, Eli and Danny, and, later, Pope's Danish-born wife, Gretta, search for him in a west that, though rough-edged, is more akin to that of Larry McMurtry than Cormac McCarthy; but the finely wrought prose of Iowa Workshop graduate Enger (novelist Leif's brother) may evoke comparisons to both. This is a gripping story with well-portrayed, complex, and sympathetic main characters and a complement of believable secondary figures in a vividly described region nearing the close of an era. Enger (Undiscovered Country, 2008) is an author worth watching.--Levine, Mark Copyright 2010 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this masterfully told Western reinvention of Homer's Odyssey from Enger (Undiscovered Country), the year is 1886 when Ulysses Pope disappears from the family farm on Minnesota's northern plains, leaving his wife, Gretta, and their sons, Eli and Danny, to fend for themselves. Eli and Danny hop a train west, following a meager trail of clues in search of their missing father. Gretta remains at home a while longer before going to see her sister-in-law in St. Louis in her own quest for answers. Gretta and her sons slowly uncover Ulysses's dark secrets from his time in the Seventh Cavalry under Custer. The brothers head further west, through the Badlands and into the Montana Territory, eventually meeting up with William T. Hornaday, who has mounted an expedition to kill one of the last buffalo and put it on display at the Smithsonian. Eli joins Hornaday's expedition, bringing him closer to a confrontation with his father and to learning about Ulysses's troubled past. Set against a backdrop of beauty and danger, this is the moving story of a man coming to terms with his past. In its narrative simplicity and emotional directness, it is reminiscent of John Ford's classic The Searchers. Agent: P.J. Mark, Janklow & Nesbit. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

This new work from Enger (Undiscovered Country) is about a journey-actually, several journeys, all undertaken in 1886 by members of the Pope family. First the father, Ulysses, abandons his family in western Minnesota without explanation for what is revealed to be a stunning moral quest; then sons Eli and little Danny seek him out; and finally wife Gretta heads into the Montana Badlands looking for her sons, her husband, and the truth about her marriage and whether she has been an understanding wife. Along the way, the narrative asks us to consider the consequences of our actions, whether we're willing to answer for them, and whether we would sacrifice even what we love to make things right with the world. At the same time, it affectingly captures the social and environmental degradation of the late 1880s, a time when a reduced native population was being forcibly confined to reservations and the buffalo was being hunted nearly to extinction. VERDICT Moving through the High Divide-"the rough country between the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers"-even as its characters move through important divides, or turning points, of their own, Enger's novel is told in beautifully exact, liquid language that wastes no time, just as one cannot afford to waste time when making a journey such as the Pope family's. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/31/14.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.