Review: "The High Divide" by Lin Enger

  • Posted on: 10 September 2015
  • By: TedG

It began like this: “Recently, I had to read the two worst books ever written,” Ron told us. “Fortunately, this wasn’t one of them. I enjoyed this book.”

And off we went into one of the most in-depth discussions we’ve had in some time. In fact, not having read the book myself, this discussion convinced me that I need to read it.

“It was a good story; one of the best books I’ve read in a while,” said Ed. “In fact, I think we may have found a historical fiction book that Irv likes.”

We all looked at Irv. He smiled. “Nope.” Irv and the other detractors felt everything just fell into place too quickly and too easily. It all felt a bit contrived.

Art did not enjoy the book as much as he hoped he would. He felt that the characters were not well-developed. “It was this thick,” he said, holding his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart, “when it should have been like this.” He moved his thumb and finger more than two inches apart. “I wanted to hear more about Custer.” Angelo agreed with this last part. He was interested to learn about the Washita incident (a raid by General George Custer and his men on a Cheyenne village in November of 1868), but he would have liked to hear more about it.

John was less impressed. “It rambled in places,” he said, and there were too many times when he didn’t understand what was going on. Plus, he was bothered by grammatical and phonological slips. (When there’s frost on the ground at one point in the story, he felt it was quite late enough in the year for that to be real.)

Adrian thought it was a great book, and he was interested to learn the history of restoring buffalo to the west, which William T. Hornaday and the American Bison Society carried out in 1905.

Art liked the themes of forgiveness and reconciliation and trauma (PTSD). Jack agreed, adding that those were not comfortable things to read about, but that’s what good literature does: it makes you reflect.

It was a very good discussion that volleyed the good and bad parts of the book in equal measure. Still, in the end, despite the quirks, most felt it was a good book, and the Interest rank bears that out, with an average of 4 out of 5. The Readability, too, was ranked a 4 out of 5. Only two people said they would not read another book by Enger, while a third was equivocal on the question. Never the less, I was moved. I will add this book to my “to read” list.

Oh, and by the way, Ron’s “two worst books ever written” were Cervantes’s Don Quixote and William Faulkner’s Absalom Absalom. If you are ever faced with a choice between one of these and Lin Enger’s The High Divide, go with the latter.