Monday, January 17, 2011

Trespass by Amy Irvine

I picked this book up after following directions for the What should I read next category?in accordance with the directions of a book challenge. The setting of this book is Utah's red-rock country.

I was delighted with my find since not only had I visited Utah's canyon country and done some hiking  there, but I am also taking a short vacation in the Southwest this coming summer.

But Trespass is much more than a sojourn in Utah's canyon country, it is a story of the shortsightedness of people who fail to see the loss of our wilderness, our deserts. It is the story of the Mormons who populated the area, their way of life and the author's ambivalence about fitting in. She struggles with her beliefs. Trespass is also a primer on the natural history of the area, a tale of the conflict between the environmentalists and the ranchers, the sports enthusiasts. Today bikes and large wheeled vehicles trample the slick rock of the area causing the type of injuries that will not heal.

Irvine writes: "They are the extreme recreationists —...and more than any rancher, they hate environmentalists."

Amy Irvine's Mormon roots run deep. While her ancestors were some of the original pioneers that Brigham Young led west, her family had a divided connection to the Mormon, LSD, faith. Her father was an  atheist , her mother a Mormon who wasn't particularly religious.  Her grandparents —on one side she had grandparents who were ranchers, hard working and deeply religious. On the other side her grandmother was an artist who was not a member of the LSD.

Amy was not baptized into the faith because her father wouldn't allow it, but when her parents divorce she asks her mother to be baptized. Many of the personal memories involve her father—both the good times and the times that were difficult and confusing for a child. When her father takes his own life Amy is an adult and his loss is palpable because of all the memories—both good and bad.

When she  divorces her first husband she is living in Salt Lake City where she works for an environmental group— Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Herb, who she loves, works out of the Moab office and as a lawyer is intimately involved  in environmental issues. Wanting to be closer to him she decides to move to San Juan County—where she can also be in the midst of red-rock country.

While she loves the landscape she finds it difficult to be accepted by the community—not only does she work for an organization that is referred to as "tree huggers", but she's also not a Church going Mormon. Attempting to live in that atmosphere creates an almost insurmountable problem. In an attempt to fit in, to be acceptable, she feels torn apart.

Her relationship with Herb vacillates between great intimacy and a yawning abyss. They marry and eventually leave the area for the Colorado Plateau —close, but not in the red-rock country of Utah.

"To truly inhabit a place is to learn to dwell with the differences that threaten to divide it."

There are no neat bows at the end of the story—either for her marriage or for the desert.

Take a Chance challenge.
Challenge 8 category.

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