Yesterday, I finished a book, White Creek: A Fable, that I want to tell you about. It’s a witty, haunting tale of family and friendship, regret and redemption, set on a remote Wyoming cattle ranch in the dead of winter.
The White Creek Ranch has been in Hap Cobb’s family for over a century and a half, but Hap is now eighty-two, and the last surviving member of his family. Tart-tongued, moody, and all too often “a miserable old fart” (in the words of his long-suffering ranch hand and closest friend, Aaron Littlefield), Hap has no rival as a home cook, owns the best-stocked private library in the state, and prides himself on his “God-given ability” to exasperate everyone he meets. He is also a world classed foul mouthed old man. My favorite expletive statement he makes in the book is the hilarious “He’s happier than a two twatted whore in a room full of Siamese twins.” The enormous ranch house he inherited long ago from his grandfather stands mostly empty these days, save for Hap and Aaron, and while their life together is both busy and comfortable, Hap often loses himself in his past, knowing he has little future left.
When a sudden blizzard hits one January evening, however, and Aaron opens the door to a young woman and a teenaged boy seeking shelter from the storm, everything Hap thought he knew about the world begins to shift. With these two unlooked-for houseguests, the White Creek Ranch soon becomes a wellspring of mystery and possibility, and will never be the same again.
A story of magical realism in the tradition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and John Crowley. It’s a book with magic or the supernatural, however you want to think of it, presented in an otherwise real-world setting. The supernatural only begins at the end though you realize that it’s been going on throughout the book.
White Creek: A Fable is by Bart Yates, who lives in Iowa City, Iowa, and is the author of four previous novels: Leave Myself Behind (winner of the 2004 Alex Award), The Brothers Bishop, The Distance Between Us, and (writing as Noah Bly) The Third Hill North Of Town. When I first read Leave Myself Behind I loved it so much that I read it again. I never read a book twice, but this one I loved. I’ve devoured each of his books since. I have yet to read The Third Hill North Of Town, but it is on its way from Amazon. Yates has a way with words like few authors I’ve ever read. You will care about and fall in love with the characters. While White Creek is the latest of his books I’ve loved and read, I urge you to pick up any of these books and give them a read. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Yates books Leave Myself Behind, The Brothers Bishop, and The Distance Between Us represent gay fiction at its zenith. White Creek isn’t gay fiction but it is a damn good book, and I expect no less of The Third Hill North Of Town.