Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins

BORN
Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Genre: Contemporary, historical
Length: Full Length (283 pages)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Lavender

Battleborn represents a near-perfect confluence of sensibility and setting, and the introduction of an exceptionally powerful and original literary voice. In each of these ten unforgettable stories, Claire Vaye Watkins writes her way fearlessly into the mythology of the American West, utterly reimagining it. Her characters orbit around the region’s vast spaces, winning redemption despite – and often because of – the hardship and violence they endure. The arrival of a foreigner transforms the exchange of eroticism and emotion at a prostitution ranch. A prospecting hermit discovers the limits of his rugged individualism when he tries to rescue an abused teenager. Decades after she led her best friend into a degrading encounter in a Vegas hotel room, a woman feels the aftershock. Most bravely of all, Watkins takes on and reinvents her own troubled legacy in a story that emerges from the mayhem and destruction of Helter Skelter.

Arcing from the sweeping and sublime to the minute and personal, from Gold Rush to ghost town to desert to brothel, the collection echoes not only in its title but also in its fierce, undefeated spirit the motto of her home state.

Battleborn is an apt title for the way the characters get beat up by life, and they each have this happen in such a different way. This book is comprised of several short stories, unrelated to each other. The common thread between them is the Western setting, particularly Nevada. We get an early picture of Nevada and later, more modern ones.

Well-written as it is, this is not a Western with dusty roads, false-fronted stores, and showdowns at noon. Most of the stories are set in the twentieth or twenty-first century; though the reader is treated to a little bit of the nineteenth century.

The little tales are gritty, showing the author’s talent for writing authentic details, the little things that paint a vivid emotional picture for readers. The characters could be people we all know or people whom we’ve read about. We get an inside look into the lives of those who live in this Western world. Sometimes things are surprising, and at other times, the situation seems like something that might have been in the newspaper numerous times.

Young and old alike, the characters are developed and easy to visualize. Love in different forms is explored, as is friendship, family loyalty, and other universal issues.

This is a great book to check out if you ever wondered what life was really like for people in this mythic-like region. The author does a great job at making it all seem so real. It’s easy to fall into the world of these stories.

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