Hell's Bottom, Colorado
The winner of the PEN USA Award for Fiction and the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, Hell’s Bottom, Colorado is a collection of stories whose “fates . . . seem unavoidable” (Los Angeles Times).
On Hell’s Bottom Ranch, a section of land below the Front Range, there are women like Renny, who prefer a “little Hell swirled with their Heaven,” and men like Ben, her husband, who’s “gotten used to smoothing over Renny’s excesses.” There is a daughter who maybe plays it too safe and a daughter plagued by only “half-wanting” what life has to offer. The ranch has been the site of births and deaths of both cattle and children, as well as moments of amazing harmony and clear vision. And it is where, after raising their children, Ben and Renny have moved to opposite ends of their acreage.
In her debut work of fiction, Laura Pritchett enters the lives of this extended ranching family, giving flesh and blood to the mythical West. Her characters convey the universal truth that family relationships, like Hell’s Bottom Ranch itself, are marked by moments of pain and glimpses of paradise.
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Praise and Prizes
“Laura Pritchett portrays human cruelty on the margins of decency and, conversely, human kindness on the margins of survival: Each story pivots on one of these points. . . . The interlocking stories allow a reader to see incidents from many angles. They ricochet like bullets off Renny and Ben’s family tree. They are jarring, deeply violent; the fates they hold seem unavoidable.”
“These sensual stories remind us again that no matter how much psychic or geographical space we claim for our own, we cannot escape the messiness and obsessions of ordinary life.”
“With the rugged beauty of the Rocky Mountains as backdrop, Laura Pritchett’s spare yet richly evocative stories portray the stark reality of life on a Colorado cattle ranch, where three generations of one family tend the land and animals, devoting and losing themselves to an existence few would understand or choose to follow. Through love and loss, Pritchett excels at juxtaposing the sensuous with the severe, the rapturous with the repugnant.”
“Vividly conveys a world where decency and humanity are challenged repeatedly, and diminished, yet still manage to gain small, significant victories. . . . An intimacy and warmth in character and a knowing view of the land are great strengths here: an impressive small-scale study of family dynamics.”
“Laura Pritchett’s stories are beautifully written and unsparingly clear-eyed, and an unsettling as a hot summer wind. These stories are among the best I’ve read at depicting the everyday struggles of men, women, and especially children to reconcile nature’s beauty with its all-too-casual cruelties.”
“A collection of well-crafted stories . . . [that] jump back and forth in time, but their message is clear: this family’s ties are as quixotic, fierce, and enduring as the land that binds them together. Teens will find this a moving portrait of the American West and what it takes to eke out a living from land that is as harsh as it is beautiful.”