Editorial Review for STARWALLOW

The Prairies Book Review has published a 5-star review for the second book in The Riven Country Series. Find it also on Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Needless to say, I’m delighted.

“Carrier has outdone herself as she returns with this heartwarming second installment in The Riven Country Series that plunges readers back into the world of her extraordinary characters’ lives.

The pain of losing Emily has not left Senga’s heart, but life has been kind to her otherwise: with a gentle, extraordinary man at her side, a close group of friends, and the quiet country life Senga is content. After getting an unexpected inheritance, Senga decides to see her old grandmother in Italy, but the trip will bring more than she hoped for. Meanwhile, the Berry place outlaws are back in their back-country hideout. An accident that deserves compassion bring them face to face with Senga. But will she be able to offer it?

Carrier efficiently builds an array of worlds, sketching both her present-day characters’ endearing worlds and the old Intriguing world of High Wolf with nuance and delicacy. Carrier’s diverse cast is beautifully rendered, and the connection between her characters is both contemplative and heartening. Senga’s inner turmoil is balanced with the quiet optimism she holds for life in general. Though readers don’t get to spend much time with High Wolf, he with his perception, insight, and compassion leaves a lasting impression.

This sweeping tale is as much a life story as it is a meditation on love, grief, and inspiration. Readers who love the first installment will find this one to be an absolute knockout.

A quiet and hopeful literary tale that marvelously explores the meaning of life, friendship, and family.

A treat for lovers of literary fiction.”

~The Prairies Book Review

Joys and Sorrows

STARWALLOW, the second book in my Riven Country series, is available on Amazon.com on June 21 in paperback and as e-book. I picked a strange time to release my first two novels. “Not getting any younger,” scrolled in the back of my mind, like a looping film clip. So! Carry on, doesn’t matter, I hear. The next installment takes up where The Riven Country of Senga Munro left off, with the folks in the Northern Wyoming Black Hills going about their lives with grit, forbearance, and, some grace. Travel is a theme. My short tag line reads: “. . . explores the distance between home and the travel necessary to come home to oneself.”

My joy—and satisfaction—at completing this writing project is tempered by a deep sorrow. A highly anticipated visit by our distant grandchildren has been cancelled, due to the virus. They live in the mid-west, and all possible routes lead through areas of virus spread, i.e., eastern South Dakota, or Nebraska or Colorado; and the stats are rising in Missouri itself. I abhor letting people down, especially our son and grandchildren, so it’s doubly difficult. The assertion that we would like to, someday, be able to attend the kids’ graduations, weddings, etc., doesn’t cut it, I’m afraid, and we’re left with a hollow feeling of perhaps being too cautious. Reason cries no! Still. . .

Between Joy and Sorrow there lies a field, to paraphrase Rumi. I’ll meet you there. . .

Navigating the times, a raging river, are we headed for a Niagara’s Falls? Both/and inclusion insist we’re aboard a hardy Lifeboat and shall weather the rapids, to finally make our tenuous way toward the far shore. I must believe this. Our country, and the world, have faced adversity before, as well as revolutions of mind and heart. This particular Lifeboat is large enough for EVERYONE. May all beings be safe. May all beings be loved. May all beings be free.

It may not be coincidence that my novels feature a Louisiana man who chooses to live in Wyoming, where his skin color is rare. Gabe Belizaire, of blue-Black heritage, quotes W.C. Fields to a belligerent hunter: “It’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” When I began writing this story six years ago, notions of white supremacy and its hurtful message slithered in like the proverbial snake in the garden. For a reason, I suppose.

Beyond the idea of good and the idea of evil there lies a field. I will meet you there. ~Rumi

May you stay safe, afloat and, keep breathing.

The Painting

The penetrating gaze is the first element that grabs you. A challenge. A strong look of disdain mixed with dignity mixed with bemusement. A stand taken and projected for all the world to see, to understand, to answer. Draped round the man, a shoulder and arm free, you see the blanket; no—an American flag, crimson and white stripes painted with blinding accuracy and life, joining the field of stars on indigo, the bordering hem of grommets just kissing the floor. A reversed flag, signaling distress, in nautical terms.

Portrait of Russell Means by Bob Coronato

After studying the perfect rendering, your eyes are drawn back to his. When you finally turn away, you suspect they will follow you.

Bob Coronato’s life-size portrait of Russell Means hangs today in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. Currently closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, one may experience exhibits online. I visited the capital in August 2019 and was privileged to view the painting “on exhibit,” as works are regularly rotated. The image still occupies a wing dedicated to Contemporary Americans, 2000-Present, though Means passed away in 2012, the same year Coronato completed the portrait.

As Bob states in personal “liner” notes displayed in his Hulett, Wyoming, Gallery and Museum, “I have been researching and planning this painting for over 10 years. I first heard about Russell Means when I moved into the Black Hills and learned how much controversy there was around him in the Hills . . . I wanted to learn more for myself.” Hulett is a long way, geographically and professionally, from the National Portrait Gallery, where current exhibition signage suggests “an era of upheaval and seismic shifts, in both American culture and international politics.”

Originally from New Jersey, Bob confesses to being an outsider. “Even as an outsider, I run into people who share stories and have strong feelings about the entire mishandling of the Indian People.”

Russell Means wished to bring to light, and mitigate, the suffering of his Oglala Nation.

Is the flag’s position describing a singular now, or is it a warning? At the artist’s request, Means agreed to wear the flag as depicted, but he reminded Coronato, “Indians are not the idea of old Hollywood westerns or to be thought of as ‘in the past,’ but a people very much of today, and with a rich history.” The artist meant to recognize Means for his activism on his people’s behalf.

You might shudder at the man’s part with the siege at Wounded Knee in 1973; a crisis, where a town was held hostage, a federal marshal shot and paralyzed, and two Native American activists killed. In the ensuing three years, two FBI agents were killed. A paradox of self-determination and government intervention fueled the heated conflict, but this is simplistic, and you would likely uncover less complexity in a Saturn rocket. Means, as spokesman, announced AIM’s settlement with the U.S. Government. He left the American Indian Movement in 1988, but continued to work to improve conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation, located in one of the poorest counties in the United States. Has life improved since? Was Means a catalyst? Or, misunderstood and conflicted himself?

The New York Times obituary described a colossal contradiction of a man, in reviewing his actions and their consequences.

A friend has described standing in the covered doorway of a Rapid City business with Russell Means and another man, all waiting for a downpour to cease. Her comical account: “He would turn in profile to the direction the traffic was moving. When the light turned, very dramatically, he would rotate in the new direction. It was hilarious!” Like a sunflower following the sun. She thought him vain, but he may have been merely playing. Subtle-like.

Coronato’s artistic intent, I believe, was not as apologist for the man, insofar as this could be possible, but he captured a bald truth in the contradictions, in paradoxes. From his subject’s wrist shines a finely-painted Rolex. Means insisted on wearing it and the black tee-shirt, as further evidence—or gesture—against Hollywood standards. But paintings are for interpreting, and you could imagine Means including the timepiece as a sly message of timeliness and perhaps worthiness.

Coronato once told me he suffered a kind of break while at work on the painting. He sunk his soul into it, and perhaps he did give something up, in trade, harkening back to the fear some indigenous peoples report, of their spirits being hi-jacked by a camera. The serious painting seriously demands your attention and consideration, not solely for its own sake, being a formidable effort, but for what it represents: the larger picture, a sign, a warning, the dire prediction. It asks, in its thousand-word capacity, what you will do. You will likely never forget his staring you down.

Having first encountered the painting when the artist initially hung it in his Wyoming Rogues Gallery, I felt a nudge, then, a charge—in the old sense of the word. If we are indeed responsible for knowledge attained (and today we are overrun by mere information, granted), do not gaze too long at this portrait. Move on to the next; in this particular National Portrait Gallery wing, it might be Toni Morrison, who redefined the Great American Novel, or Michelle Obama, who reinvigorated the role of First Lady. Choose the image into which you would lend, if not lose, your soul, but ask the subjects to release you afterward, if only to spread a few words—like a town-crier, or eyapaha.