G. Bianco, 2019
In her debut memoir, Kendra Atleework discusses what life was like for her growing up in a desert-like terrain in a very small town. Miracle Country, which comes out July 14th, is eye-opening and allows you to view the world from someone else's mind.
Kendra Atleework grew up in Swall Meadows, in the Owens Valley of the Eastern Sierra Nevada, where annual rainfall averages five inches and in drought years measures closer to zero. Kendra’s family raised their children to thrive in this harsh landscape, forever at the mercy of wildfires, blizzards, and gale-force winds. Most of all, the Atleework children were raised on unconditional love and delight in the natural world. But it came at a price. When Kendra was six, her mother was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, and she died when Kendra was sixteen. Her family fell apart, even as her father tried to keep them together. Kendra took flight from her bereft family, escaping to the enemy city of Los Angeles, and then Minneapolis, land of all trees, no deserts, no droughts, full lakes, water everywhere you look. But after years of avoiding the pain of her hometown, she realized that she had to go back, that the desert was the only place she could live. Like Wild, Miracle Country is a story of flight and return, bounty and emptiness, and the true meaning of home. But it also speaks to the ravages of climate change and its permanent destruction of the way of life in one particular town.
This memoir dives deep into the history of California, Nevada, and the development of water aqueducts and how a desert region developed into a city. Atleework shows she did her research and references many historians and writers whose stories intertwine with her own. While Atleework does add a personal touch to this book by recounting stories of her childhood to the historic and present state of this desert region, I think this novel places a lot of focus on history which I found to be a bit boring at times; however, if you’re a history buff who love to view the world from a first person point of view, then Miracle Country blends past and present in a way that makes this story feel more personal.
If you enjoy learning about the environment and how certain landscapes have changed over the course of history because of humans, then this book will definitely peak your interest. However, if you’re looking for a deep dive into someone’s life, you might not find what you’re looking for.
*I received an ARC from Algonquin Books in exchange for my honest opinion.
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