Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
The year is 1902. A young stock-handler named Fenton Pardee has just survived the train wreck that almost destroyed William F. Cody’s Wild West show. Surveying the train’s smoldering ruins—and what is left of Cody’s company of stunt-riders, trick-shooters, and stage actors—Fenton realizes that turning the West into a circus to thrill the world is no longer thrilling for him. Salvaging a saddle horse and three pack mules, he heads back into the West, seeking the reality of the Montana Rockies.
Blue Heaven marks the return of Fenton Pardee, veteran guide and packer, who figured so memorably in High Country, Willard Wyman’s highly acclaimed first novel. Now Wyman moves back in time, filling in the story of the legendary packer.
As he begins his westward journey, Fenton is not nearly as sure of where he is going as of what he wants to leave. Crossing the National Divide, he follows Indian trails and game trails, learning the lay of the land as he moves into a wilderness that comforts him as it draws him ever deeper into it. Stumbling into the camp of Tommy Yellowtail, a Flathead Indian as determined to remain in these mountains as Fenton is to embrace them, he finally finds his way. Together the two men discover that showing people what they want to preserve has its own way of keeping it alive.
The tale of Fenton and Tommy—and of the women they love, one of whom is tragically taken from them—cuts through the romance of the West to offer an earthier reality, even as twentieth-century expansion and a looming world war threaten to take it all away.
“Willard Wyman knows the American West as well as anyone. His love and respect for its majestic high country, and his knowledge—gained through experience—of its historical uses and abuses, informs every moment of his new novel. Blue Heaven is a wonderful portrait of life as it was really lived in the back of beyond, with no six-guns, tomahawks, or ox-stunning fisticuffs, just good people living in the manner dictated by the country.” Page Stegner author of Outposts of Eden and Grand Canyon
“Wyman here achieves in literature what his character Fenton aims for in a well-packed string of mules: ‘it was all balance . . . loads had to be evened out for everyone.’ Blue Heaven, which deals with life's balancing acts and the loads that people carry through their lives, is a beautifully crafted novel.” Sue Hart PEN Syndicated Fiction Award Winner and editor of Writers under the Rims
“Wyman has walked the windy ridges, the treeline scree and upland marshes of Montana's high country. He has lived among those men and women whose bodies have been weathered by that harsh and soaring land, and whose souls have been weathered by a life lived in the solace of the mountains. Out of this deep understanding of a world unknown to most of us, he has wrought a powerful novel of struggle and love in the first half of the twentieth century. His privileged readers will find themselves caring, tenderly, about these people and their besieged corner of heaven.” Richard S. Wheeler author of North Star, Snowbound, and The Owl Hunt
“Eighty years ago, in the glorious high country of the Montana Rockies, resolute and capable, oftentimes eccentric men and women pursued difficult frontier lives with scabbed hands, dignity, and joyousness. With Blue Heaven, Willard Wyman has given us another vital (if sometimes politically incorrect) humdinger of a novel.” William Kittredge author of Hole in the Sky