Score: 4/5 Bookmarks
Inland by Téa Obreht follows two separate stories, one set in Arizona in the late 1800s and one that spans a longer stretch of time and geographical distance. Ultimately these two tales converge and we see the similarities of these people who were born and lived worlds apart for most of their existence.
One line follows Lurie, who talks in the first person to someone (I won’t spoil things by saying who) while the other follows Nora, a homesteader in Arizona Territory who is struggling with the disappearance of her husband and trying to take care of her wards while being completely out of water. Nora is talked about in the third person, to give you space to see her vulnerabilities and who she really is beyond who she thinks she is.
I found Inland to be a slow burn, and it definitely took me a while to get into. But once I did I really enjoyed it and the characters became familiar and endearing to me. I had the opportunity to hear Téa Obreht talk about the book, and that certainly deepened my appreciation for the story, and the research behind it.
Téa talked about listening to a particular episode of the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class and being so intrigued by the episode that she started researching and asking questions that ultimately turned into this book.
She talked about visiting the areas discussed in the book, from the Tetons to the Arizona Plains, and the feeling of homesickness she experienced whenever she left (despite never having lived there). She found the longitudes and latitudes of camps recorded in Edward Fitzgerald Beal’s diaries and spent time at each to try and get a real sense of what life would have been like in the 1800s.
The title, Inland, doesn’t refer to the distance from the coast but rather the distance from the railroad because that was the more important measure of the time.
The book also has strong themes of mysticism and talks frequently of ghosts, which carry across several characters.
Téa also divulged that she is a third of the way through writing a desert island novel. I’m sure she’ll have fun researching that one!
In the lawless, drought-ridden lands of the Arizona Territory in 1893, two extraordinary lives collide. Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman awaiting the return of the men in her life--her husband, who has gone in search of water for the parched household, and her elder sons, who have vanished after an explosive argument. Nora is biding her time with her youngest son, who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home.
Lurie is a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts. He sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires a momentous expedition across the West. The way in which Nora's and Lurie's stories intertwine is the surprise and suspense of this brilliant novel.
Mythical, lyrical, and sweeping in scope, Inland is grounded in true but little-known history. It showcases all of Téa Obreht's talents as a writer, as she subverts and reimagines the myths of the American West, making them entirely--and unforgettably--her own.