Miracle Country
Kendra Atleework grew up in Swall Meadows, in the Owens Valley of the Eastern Sierra Nevada, where annual rainfall averages five inches and in drought years measures closer to zero.   Kendra’s family raised their children to thrive in this harsh landscape, forever at the mercy of wildfires, blizzards, and gale-force winds.  Most of all, the Atleework children were raised on unconditional love and delight in the natural world. But it came at a price. When Kendra was six, her mother was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, and she died when Kendra was sixteen. Her family fell apart, even as her father tried to keep them together. Kendra took flight from her bereft family, escaping to the enemy city of Los Angeles, and then Minneapolis, land of all trees, no deserts, no droughts, full lakes, water everywhere you look.    But after years of avoiding the pain of her hometown, she realized that she had to go back, that the desert was the only place she could live. Like Wild, Miracle Country is a story of flight and return, bounty and emptiness, and the true meaning of home.  But it also speaks to the ravages of climate change and its permanent destruction of the way of life in one particular town.

Miracle Country Details

TitleMiracle Country
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 16th, 2020
PublisherAlgonquin Books
ISBN-139781616209988
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Environment, Nature, Nonfiction

Miracle Country Review

  • Clio
    January 1, 1970
    I feel like I don’t have the words to begin how to describe how I feel about this book. The way the author weaves the past and the present is effortless. The book reminds us the we can not move forward without remember what came before - and holdsour hand through California’s history. Challenging us to take responsibility for our place in time, while opening the curtain into her own life. The author brings up the questions of home - can our home ever really be our own? And at the same time how c I feel like I don’t have the words to begin how to describe how I feel about this book. The way the author weaves the past and the present is effortless. The book reminds us the we can not move forward without remember what came before - and holdsour hand through California’s history. Challenging us to take responsibility for our place in time, while opening the curtain into her own life. The author brings up the questions of home - can our home ever really be our own? And at the same time how can it not be? I cannot recommend this book enough. Atleework has her finger to the pulse of the present while not letting us forget what has come before.
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  • James Wade
    January 1, 1970
    An incredibly beautiful, moving memoir, seamlessly weaving the author’s own history with that of the Owens Valley. Atleework writes about the loss of her mother in a way that is poetic and unflinching. She captures the magic and the danger of the Eastern Sierra Nevada, the vulnerability of being a young adult, and the remarkable wonder of our ability to keep going forward even when we don’t realize our feet are moving. MIRACLE COUNTRY is inspiring and heartbreaking. I suspect time will prove it’ An incredibly beautiful, moving memoir, seamlessly weaving the author’s own history with that of the Owens Valley. Atleework writes about the loss of her mother in a way that is poetic and unflinching. She captures the magic and the danger of the Eastern Sierra Nevada, the vulnerability of being a young adult, and the remarkable wonder of our ability to keep going forward even when we don’t realize our feet are moving. MIRACLE COUNTRY is inspiring and heartbreaking. I suspect time will prove it’s also unforgettable
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  • ☕️Hélène⚜️
    January 1, 1970
    It is difficult for me to review a memoir since this is a personal book about the authors life but I will do my best.A memoir that is powerful in describing the rough landscape. The drought, heat, wild fires, etc... can’t imagine living in that kind of extreme environment. Thank you Algonquin the invitation To this Blog Tour, Kendra Atleework and NetGalley for this arc in exchange of an honest review
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  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    I lived for 40 years in the rain shadow of the Sierras and fully understand Kendra’s love for the raw beauty that comes with this country. What they called the Sierra Wave we called the Washoe Zephyr, because you need a name to make friends with such a violent beast. It drives the weather and it drives wildfire. But most of all it’s big and it’s beautiful. When you fall in love with the high desert, you fall deep. The place of Kendra’s story is as important as is her family’s story, and her deep I lived for 40 years in the rain shadow of the Sierras and fully understand Kendra’s love for the raw beauty that comes with this country. What they called the Sierra Wave we called the Washoe Zephyr, because you need a name to make friends with such a violent beast. It drives the weather and it drives wildfire. But most of all it’s big and it’s beautiful. When you fall in love with the high desert, you fall deep. The place of Kendra’s story is as important as is her family’s story, and her deep love of both is beautifully rendered. Yearly we drove to SoCal to spend New Years with family, and depending on the snow conditions, might spend the night at a Best Western in Lone Pine, but regardless, it was always a relief to arrive in Bishop. It was a shock to see the carcass of Owens Lake, and it was a point of celebration when Mono Lake was allotted enough water to cover the land bridge, denying predators access to nesting sites on the islands.The theft of the Valley’s water and lifeblood is unquestionably unfair, but when my young self would petulantly tell my mother that something was unfair, she’d reply - whoever told you life was fair?!! The greatest good for the greatest number is a recurring theme in the book, and anyone not in the greatest numbers knows it’s not fair, but nevertheless there it is, and it’s a recurring theme in water rights in the Arid West. “The greatest good for the greatest number” rationalized the attempted eradication of American Indians to make room for frontier settlers. The Homestead Act of 1862 offered free land to hopeful homesteaders if they met the qualifications after five years, but it was “free” because the surviving Indians were relocated to settlement camps called reservations. That said, there would be no Los Angeles or homesteading without employing the greatest-good-for-the-greatest-number ethic. Not fair! Kendra quoted a number of prominent environmentalist authors, and if she keeps writing like this, we might one day be quoting her.
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  • Sarah Prendergast (lifeandbookswithme)
    January 1, 1970
    Kendra Atleework describes her family’s struggles as they live in a remote part of the California desert. They fight against elements (extreme drought & fires) and navigate her mother’s early death at the age of fifty-two. Her siblings struggle in their own ways and Kendra flees the Eastern Sierra, in search of peace while at college in Los Angeles. After a few moves across states, she realizes the only place she will ever feel at home is in Swallow. She returns home and begins anew as she comes Kendra Atleework describes her family’s struggles as they live in a remote part of the California desert. They fight against elements (extreme drought & fires) and navigate her mother’s early death at the age of fifty-two. Her siblings struggle in their own ways and Kendra flees the Eastern Sierra, in search of peace while at college in Los Angeles. After a few moves across states, she realizes the only place she will ever feel at home is in Swallow. She returns home and begins anew as she comes to terms with her identity as she is shaped by the landscapes around her.I thought this memoir did an excellent job of capturing the essence of each of Kendra’s family members. I really enjoyed her retelling of stories that depicted her mother and father’s journeys as well as her two siblings. I did find it a bit difficult at times to follow as it’s non-linear. The personal story is often interjected with quite a bit of history about the area and sometimes it hops back and forth in time without much notice. I am discovering that I really prefer memoirs that are written in chronological order and this is the main reason for the rating I gave this book. The theme of survival and resilience is woven in seamlessly as Atleework explains the challenges her parents faced by choosing to settle down in the Eastern Sierra. Thank you to @netgalley and @algonquinbooks for the ARC.
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  • Melissa Kiley | memoirs.of.a.booknerd
    January 1, 1970
    Miracle Country is the memoir of Kendra Atleework, who grew up with her family in the Owens Valley of the Eastern Sierra Nevada at the mercy of all nature could throw at them. After losing her mother at 16, her family fell apart and Kendra escaped to LA and then Minneapolis, but eventually returned home to come to terms with her past.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣This memoir is a unique combination of family story and environmental history. What originally drew me to the book was the promise of beautifully descriptive a Miracle Country is the memoir of Kendra Atleework, who grew up with her family in the Owens Valley of the Eastern Sierra Nevada at the mercy of all nature could throw at them. After losing her mother at 16, her family fell apart and Kendra escaped to LA and then Minneapolis, but eventually returned home to come to terms with her past.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣This memoir is a unique combination of family story and environmental history. What originally drew me to the book was the promise of beautifully descriptive accounts of the natural landscape. Having come off of reading Where the Crawdads Sing recently, I was intrigued, and this book definitely delivered on that promise. Atleework gives the reader the most breathtaking descriptions of both the beauty and ferocity of the Eastern Sierra Nevada. I also appreciated the poetic way she connected her personal history with the environmental issues.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣That being said, I found myself falling in and out of love with this story as I read and never had that “I need to keep reading this” feeling you get with a really great book. The personal and environmental histories were both interesting in and of themselves, but the narrative read almost more as a stream of consciousness with the historical sections embedded so abruptly in the middle of the personal narratives that I found it impossible to get into a rhythm of reading it and at times had to check to make sure the pages of my ARC weren’t somehow disordered.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣This book would be great for someone who would like to read about the negative impact people have on the environment told through the lens of personal ties to the land.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣Thank you to @algonquinbooks for providing me with this ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣Also…this cover 😍⁣⁣
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  • Angela Dee { angelas.bookshelf }
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this memoir. About returning home, overcoming painful memories and finding out where you truly belong. She was raised in survive and thrive in the harsh landscape of Eastern Sierra Nevada. She experienced things like drought, wildfire and crazy winds. When she was 16 years old, her mother passed away and the family fell apart. Kendra then decides to breakaway to LA then to Minneapolis, two landscapes very different than what she grew up with.She eventuality feels the need to ret I really enjoyed this memoir. About returning home, overcoming painful memories and finding out where you truly belong. She was raised in survive and thrive in the harsh landscape of Eastern Sierra Nevada. She experienced things like drought, wildfire and crazy winds. When she was 16 years old, her mother passed away and the family fell apart. Kendra then decides to breakaway to LA then to Minneapolis, two landscapes very different than what she grew up with.She eventuality feels the need to return home to overcome her past and find a true meaning of home. This book is about losing, then finding yourself and the complexities of family.Thank you to Algonquin Books and Kendra Atleewood for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Madeline
    January 1, 1970
    Close to a 4.5! Full review to come close to pub day. :)-Miracle Country is an atmospheric, and layered memoir that blends wistful nature writing with Kendra Atleework’s experience growing up, losing her mother, leaving, and eventually returning to the landscape that just wouldn’t let her go. Atleework grew up in Owens Valley, a dry and arid area that is east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The Owens River runs through the valley and provides water to communities that would otherwise have d Close to a 4.5! Full review to come close to pub day. :)-Miracle Country is an atmospheric, and layered memoir that blends wistful nature writing with Kendra Atleework’s experience growing up, losing her mother, leaving, and eventually returning to the landscape that just wouldn’t let her go. Atleework grew up in Owens Valley, a dry and arid area that is east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The Owens River runs through the valley and provides water to communities that would otherwise have disappeared long ago. I always find it interesting to see how people define themselves, and in this memoir Atleework uses the landscape of Owens Valley to do so. The landscape is integral in her writing, and is fused to the story Atleework tells of her family, from how her parents met to her wandering path from, and back to, Owens Valley. The nature writing is quite beautiful and is easy to immerse yourself in. The love that Atleework holds for her home is evident in the care with which she writes. I especially appreciated how Atleework weaves in historical narrative to her own examination of the land she grew up on. She integrates quotes from famous nature writers who spent time in Owens Valley, and interviews and stories of the native Paiute tribe that has lived in Owens Valley for years. Atleework’s historical musings serve to ground her individual story in the larger context of Owens Valley, where water has been fought over for centuries. Atleework honors the history of the Paiute people, and is honest about the injustices that white settlers committed against their people. She delves into the fraught history of water in Owens Valley, where Los Angeles has been siphoning off much of the water found in the valley for the last century. These events have served to create an underlying tension and passion that only matches the arid climate Atleework writes about, where a single spark can start a fire.At once a story of finding yourself and growing up, this is also a story of Owens Valley and a family who was as much inspired by it as it was formed by it. Atleework’s memoir is full of beauty, passion, love, hardship, and forgiveness. Thank you to Algonquin Books for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!TW for loss of a parent.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    The Eastern Sierra is a land of wild winds and wildfires. In 1892, Mary Austin arrived at the Eastern Sierra and wrote, "You will find it forsaken of most things but beauty and madness and death and God."Once Paiute harvested fields of wild rye and love grass, before ranchers arrived to summer their stock. The cattle devoured the crops and the First People starved. Bill Mulholland stole lake water to grow Los Angeles. Drought depletes the wells while the streams are diverted to LA.A woman from t The Eastern Sierra is a land of wild winds and wildfires. In 1892, Mary Austin arrived at the Eastern Sierra and wrote, "You will find it forsaken of most things but beauty and madness and death and God."Once Paiute harvested fields of wild rye and love grass, before ranchers arrived to summer their stock. The cattle devoured the crops and the First People starved. Bill Mulholland stole lake water to grow Los Angeles. Drought depletes the wells while the streams are diverted to LA.A woman from the Great Lakes and a man from the California coast were drawn to the sublimity of the high desert. They met in a band and went on a hike. They birthed two girls and adopted a brown-skinned son.It's hard to know how to fix a smashed world at sixteen, at fourteen, at eleven.~ from Miracle Country by Kendra AtleeworkTheir idyllic life was smashed with their matriarch's early death, spiraling the children into their private hells from which their father could not save them.Atleework left for LA and then the MidWest. The hills burned. The dust blew arsenic. Her father's well dried up. But the beauty of Atleework's homeland brought her back from her wanderings.Whiskey's for drinking. Water's for fighting over.~from Miracle Country by Kendra AttleeworkThe environmental cost for the growth of cities is central to the story and raises ethical questions about water rights. "We live in a landscape damaged beyond repair," Atleework writes, "and we see our loss magnified the world over."The story of water in Owens Valley...was a sad story of wrong done, a near tall tale with a suit-coated villian and cowboy herons. ~from Miracle Country by Kendra AtleeworkThe valley's discovery by American soldiers and the settlers eager to displace (or annihilate) the native people is the story of European attitudes that 'built' the country while also destroying it.Atleework's Miracle Country was a pleasure to read, gorgeous in prose, intimate as a memoir, and wide-ranging in its portrait of a land and its people. Highly recommended.I was given a free ebook by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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  • Laila
    January 1, 1970
    [Rating 3.5 stars]Miracle Country is a memoir about growing up in the California desert, and about what home means in the context of family and a harsh landscape.Having lived in the Southwest for a lot of my life, I already have an affinity for the desert. While I connect with the beauty and the rawness of such places, I feel that the particular area Atleework grew up in has a different context because of its proximity to Los Angeles and that history of water conflict. She delves deeply into the [Rating 3.5 stars]Miracle Country is a memoir about growing up in the California desert, and about what home means in the context of family and a harsh landscape.Having lived in the Southwest for a lot of my life, I already have an affinity for the desert. While I connect with the beauty and the rawness of such places, I feel that the particular area Atleework grew up in has a different context because of its proximity to Los Angeles and that history of water conflict. She delves deeply into the history of the region and the issue of water rights, dams and pipelines. To be honest, those parts dragged a bit for me, but I like that she included some voices of Native communities from the area. I thought the exploration of the idea of home was interesting; how she kind of has a love/hate relationship with the valley, but also did not feel at home anywhere else. I liked the parts about her family members, and how the harsh desert and the death of her mother shaped them all in different ways. I think the interweaving of personal history with regional history got a little confusing, but was an interesting approach. Atleework’s writing was at times powerful and poetic, and conveys her conflicted emotions about the place she calls home. There were some beautiful descriptions of nature, both in her words and through other writers. This is a good choice for readers who enjoy poetic memoirs, and have an appreciation for nature. Thank you to Algonquin Books and NetGalley for providing this review copy.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this memoir! Atleework weaves past and present seamlessly. A memoir about returning home, overcoming painful pasts and finding where you truly belong. •Raised to thrive in the severe climate of Eastern Sierra Nevada Atleework knows the realities of drought, wildfires, and crazy winds. When she was 16 her mother died and the family fell apart. We then see Kendra break away to L.A and then Minneapolis, where the landscapes were opposite to where she grew up. Eventually she feels t I really enjoyed this memoir! Atleework weaves past and present seamlessly. A memoir about returning home, overcoming painful pasts and finding where you truly belong. •Raised to thrive in the severe climate of Eastern Sierra Nevada Atleework knows the realities of drought, wildfires, and crazy winds. When she was 16 her mother died and the family fell apart. We then see Kendra break away to L.A and then Minneapolis, where the landscapes were opposite to where she grew up. Eventually she feels the pull to return to her desert home, to overcome her past and find the true meaning of home. •This book was reminiscent of Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild. About losing and finding yourself, the complexities and love of family, but also about the realities and affects climate change can have on people. •Thank You to the publisher for sending me this book opinions are my own. •For more of my book content check out instagram.com/bookalong
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  • Oreoluwa
    January 1, 1970
    One thing I love about book is how beautifully poetic it is. The writing is seemless and entralling. The way the author writes on loss, on nature, on family is alluring.I rarely read non-fiction and while it took me a while to adjust to this one, it is undeniable that this book is a masterpiece. The way Kendra Atleework weaves her story back and forth, only few writers know how to pull that off seemlessly and perfectly.I was also pleasantly surprised to learn from the book that the name Atleewor One thing I love about book is how beautifully poetic it is. The writing is seemless and entralling. The way the author writes on loss, on nature, on family is alluring.I rarely read non-fiction and while it took me a while to adjust to this one, it is undeniable that this book is a masterpiece. The way Kendra Atleework weaves her story back and forth, only few writers know how to pull that off seemlessly and perfectly.I was also pleasantly surprised to learn from the book that the name Atleework is actually a combination of the surnames of Kendra Atleework’s parents — Atlee & Work.I don’t have much words to describe this book or explain a lot about it but if you enjoy memoirs that are poetic, moving, deep and if you love nature, you should read this book. However, as a trigger warning, this book contains themes of sexual assault so take note.
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  • Bryan Mack
    January 1, 1970
    Kendra Atleework’s Miracle Country is a memoir about growing up in the Eastern Sierra, a story of both family and the land they live on. Having grown up in the small community just to the south of Ms. Atleework at the same time, her book was mesmerizing for me. She weaves her story with the story of California’s water and the story of the Nuumu people. The book is thick with references and quotes from authors who share her concerns, such as Rachel Solnit and Wallace Stegner, but she takes care n Kendra Atleework’s Miracle Country is a memoir about growing up in the Eastern Sierra, a story of both family and the land they live on. Having grown up in the small community just to the south of Ms. Atleework at the same time, her book was mesmerizing for me. She weaves her story with the story of California’s water and the story of the Nuumu people. The book is thick with references and quotes from authors who share her concerns, such as Rachel Solnit and Wallace Stegner, but she takes care never to lose sight of her family story. I was excited to read a book from a young Bishop writer, and am amazed and awed by how enjoyable a read it was. One I will most certainly return to, and will suggest to people who want to know a bit more about where I live.
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  • Larry Almeida
    January 1, 1970
    What a wonderful book! (I'm biased because my daughter, Zoe, was Kendra's roommate at Scripps College, but this is a great book.) Kendra's prose is exquisite and the force of the narrative is not just from her own personal story. This book is about "Place" just as much as it is about "Character" and it tolls the bell loudly about crucial environmental issues. But you don't have to take it from me. Read the excellent review Kendra received in the San Francisco Chronicle: https://datebook.sfchroni What a wonderful book! (I'm biased because my daughter, Zoe, was Kendra's roommate at Scripps College, but this is a great book.) Kendra's prose is exquisite and the force of the narrative is not just from her own personal story. This book is about "Place" just as much as it is about "Character" and it tolls the bell loudly about crucial environmental issues. But you don't have to take it from me. Read the excellent review Kendra received in the San Francisco Chronicle: https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/book...
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  • Debbie Boucher
    January 1, 1970
    Miracle Country celebrates the Eastern Sierra. I highly recommend this memoir that is part natural history, local history, and personal history. It touched my heart.
  • Deborah Stevens
    January 1, 1970
    Oh I adored this book and will now show up for anything more from Atleework!I was drawn to this by the land, which is a full-on presence in this memoir. I have had the good fortune to visit this area of Southern California several times and am fascinated by its beauty, complex history and ecology, harshness, mix of residents. There's much more to appreciate here. Atleework is young, not always a plus for a writer of memoir, but a careful observer and a revealing teller of tales. Wonderful book.
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  • Jennifer
    January 1, 1970
    Miracle Country by Kendra Atleework is a beautiful reflection by the author of her life living in the Eastern Sierra Nevada desert, in the presence of snow capped mountains and a glaring absence of available water. Atleework brilliantly situates this land of "lack" against her own experience of loss after her mother dies, bringing this idea of something that is missing from the microcosm of family to the larger picture of an entire region. It is clear that Atleework loves the wild land where she Miracle Country by Kendra Atleework is a beautiful reflection by the author of her life living in the Eastern Sierra Nevada desert, in the presence of snow capped mountains and a glaring absence of available water. Atleework brilliantly situates this land of "lack" against her own experience of loss after her mother dies, bringing this idea of something that is missing from the microcosm of family to the larger picture of an entire region. It is clear that Atleework loves the wild land where she grew up; within her memoir is a wealth of historical information from the nearly complete siphoning of her town's major water source via canal system to Los Angeles, to how this "modernization" in conjunction with white settlement has impacted the indigenous Paiute tribe, to the peculiar weather patterns that arise on the Eastern side of the Sierra and the impact that climate change has had on the area. Miracle Country is beautifully written and rife with longing for her mother, for the family she had before her mother's death, and for her hometown once she moves away for college. I recommend for anyone that enjoys a stunning memoir that looks outside, as well as in.
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  • Victoria
    January 1, 1970
    I won a free copy in a Goodreads giveaway.This book uses a non-linear storytelling style that was a little hard for me to get into at first. Rather than progressing directly from past to present, the author dances back and forth, sprinkling in memories of her life and family with stories about California's not-so-golden history. I learned quite a bit about native displacement, the "water wars" and a horrifying concept known as "the greatest good for the greatest number" that can be used to justi I won a free copy in a Goodreads giveaway.This book uses a non-linear storytelling style that was a little hard for me to get into at first. Rather than progressing directly from past to present, the author dances back and forth, sprinkling in memories of her life and family with stories about California's not-so-golden history. I learned quite a bit about native displacement, the "water wars" and a horrifying concept known as "the greatest good for the greatest number" that can be used to justify all sorts of terrible actions, as long as the number of people that benefit from it is greater than those that are hurt. But it's not all doom-and-gloom. California, and the people that call it home, are nothing if not resilient and resourceful. Some might even say, stubborn. ;D At its heart, it's a story of many kinds of loss and love, and the enduring calls of home and family even when you feel like you've lost the way. Side Note: I particularly enjoyed the author's frequent descriptions of the beauty and freedom to be found in the California desert, despite its hardships. It's not for everyone, but for those that hear its song, it offers a unique and haunting experience all its own.
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  • Nancy Willard
    January 1, 1970
    Miracle Country A Memoir by Kendra AtleeworkMiracle Country is not only a Memoir of a Family, but also a Memoir of a geographic place, its nature, natural history and inherent disasters. In fact, the author has packed it so full, I was overwhelmed in the beginning. Just as I was in the throes of sadness as this very tight-knit family is learning the dire prognosis of their Mother’s medical condition, the author abruptly shifts to stories of California history and I had to turn back a couple of p Miracle Country A Memoir by Kendra AtleeworkMiracle Country is not only a Memoir of a Family, but also a Memoir of a geographic place, its nature, natural history and inherent disasters. In fact, the author has packed it so full, I was overwhelmed in the beginning. Just as I was in the throes of sadness as this very tight-knit family is learning the dire prognosis of their Mother’s medical condition, the author abruptly shifts to stories of California history and I had to turn back a couple of pages to see what I missed. These historical facts were interesting, but they distracted me from the emotions at hand. (yet often sent me googling to find out more!!) Until I got into the rhythm of the author’s story-telling, I felt like I was reading two different books. Nevertheless, this moving account of a family and a place, where even the mountains have a personality (I loved Tom) has made a place in my heart and in my brain. Taking a walk in my neighborhood, I find myself muttering “Pukeorpassout” as the Midwest heat and humidity get to me! I leave you with a favorite quote of Pop’s that ends the story and is now a favorite of mine: “Landing is the hardest part of flying.” Thanks to #NetGalley and #Algonquin for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this beautiful memoir. #MiracleCountry
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  • Leslie Lindsay
    January 1, 1970
    A rare memoir combing aspects of travel, history, environmental writing with autobiography and told in luminous prose. On the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas, a tiny town known as Swall Meadows resides. A bit farther south, a larger (but still small) town of Bishop lies cradled in the hands of Owens Valley. This is the primary setting of MIRACLE COUNTRY (Algonquin Books, July 14) by debut author Kendra Atleework. I was initially drawn to MIRACLE COUNTRY because I have a 'thing' with land an A rare memoir combing aspects of travel, history, environmental writing with autobiography and told in luminous prose. On the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas, a tiny town known as Swall Meadows resides. A bit farther south, a larger (but still small) town of Bishop lies cradled in the hands of Owens Valley. This is the primary setting of MIRACLE COUNTRY (Algonquin Books, July 14) by debut author Kendra Atleework. I was initially drawn to MIRACLE COUNTRY because I have a 'thing' with land and geography, how it shapes one's worldview, their art, their essence. Having recently visited a high desert myself, I was intrigued and enthralled with this grittier, rustic side of life--from raging wildfires to blizzards and gale-force winds, this area witnesses it all. MIRACLE COUNTRY blends autobiography with environmental writing along with history. Here, we learn about the origins of L.A. (Owens Valley being just a few hours away), and how the Los Angeles Aqueduct was developed to usher water to the sprawling metropolis, rich with stars and more. Atleework writes with a radiant hand, casting light and luminosity into the darkest reaches. I learned more about William Mulholland and Mary Austin, pioneers to the area, and more about wildfires, flight (both metaphorical and literal), as well as what it means to come home. I would have preferred more of a narrative connection between Atleework and her mother--while there, her mother seems to slip into the background, guiding and directing, but at a distance--I wanted this to come to the forefront, the be the premise. The author's mother died of a mysterious autoimmune disorder when the author was sixteen. The relationship they forged seemed to be one of pureness and love, her mother a force as strong as the environmental landscape in which she raised her children. Atleework knits this loss into the narrative, but it is not the sole focus. I did enjoy the pieces of the author moving away to Minnesota, Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, full of green and trees and water, the polar opposite of where she grew up. I found this ironic and yes--disappointing. But here, Atleework began the arduous task of finding herself, of coming to the realization that she needed to 'go home.' MIRACLE COUNTRY is a shimmering, gorgeously told history of a region, written with ripples of life, love, and loss. I was reminded, in part, of the work of Isabella Bird (moutaineer woman from the 1800s) meets other environmental writings akin to Cheryl Strayed meets Bobi Conn (IN THE SHADOW OF THE VALLEY) with a touch of Sarah M. Broom's THE YELLOW HOUSE. For all my reviews, including author interviews, please visit: www.leslielindsay.com|Always with a Book. Special thanks to Algonquin and the author for this review copy.
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    I think for starters I should mention that I’m not a nature person. In my own life (and in my writing), it’s pretty rare for me to wax poetic about the great outdoors. But this doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate other writers who do. “Miracle Country” is a memoir that examines Kendra Atleework’s connection to both the California desert and the impact her mother’s death had on her as a young girl. I’m usually a fan of more linear memoirs that describe someone’s story chronologically, but Atleew I think for starters I should mention that I’m not a nature person. In my own life (and in my writing), it’s pretty rare for me to wax poetic about the great outdoors. But this doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate other writers who do. “Miracle Country” is a memoir that examines Kendra Atleework’s connection to both the California desert and the impact her mother’s death had on her as a young girl. I’m usually a fan of more linear memoirs that describe someone’s story chronologically, but Atleework did a wonderful job linking all of the major events of her life back to her ties to where she grew up in the Owens Valley of the Eastern Sierra Nevada. You can feel her deep kinship with every part of nature, so that the setting almost becomes another relative in her life (just as dear to her as her parents and siblings).I found that a few different writers came to mind when reading “Miracle Country.” While this doesn’t make the book altogether unique, it did make me feel like Atleework’s writing could be held up next to these other works in worthy comparison. Her journey of healing surrounding the death of her mother and her drive to relate to the wonders of nature reminded me quite a bit of Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild.” Atleework also quotes many writers in her book to support her examination of the environment of California. Before I saw Joan Didion’s name in the text, I had already thought of her. Few other writers are able to capture the true mercurial vibe of California like her, and I was glad to see that Atleework referenced her as well in her own writing.This book also benefitted greatly from the historical aspect that Atleework was able to weave throughout the story. As a California native, I was intrigued by her descriptions of William Mulholland, who did so much to shape how Californians access and view our water supply. Descriptions of Native Americans who battled to keep their land and how early pioneers fought to survive among the wildest of elements (fire, earthquakes, blizzards, you name it) gave this book extra depth that was much appreciated. Despite my lack of affinity for the outdoors, I was able to crawl inside Atleework’s world – filled with tackling mountain climbs and crawling through the memories of a mother who was gone way too soon. The easy flow to her writing and her insightful connections to the elements that have formed her life definitely made this a worthwhile read.*Free ARC provided by Algonquin in exchange for an honest review*
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  • Camila
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book between June 15th and July 1st, 2020 as part of a blog tour I was invited to participate in by Algonquin and gave it three stars, but it's more like 3.5, really. I'd like to thank them, the author, and NetGalley for this opportunity. Now, this is nonfiction but it is nothing like what I've read before. I say this because it seems as if the main character in this book, other than being Atleewood herself or her family, is the place where they all live. I might be wrong, and if I a I read this book between June 15th and July 1st, 2020 as part of a blog tour I was invited to participate in by Algonquin and gave it three stars, but it's more like 3.5, really. I'd like to thank them, the author, and NetGalley for this opportunity. Now, this is nonfiction but it is nothing like what I've read before. I say this because it seems as if the main character in this book, other than being Atleewood herself or her family, is the place where they all live. I might be wrong, and if I am, please correct me, but the author is from Bishop, which is a desertic land in California. To me, it was interesting to read about the weather, and the elements, and nature itself as characters, especially in an autobiographical book. It is especially interesting considering I have only lived in the city, and Colombia is a tropical country so the climate, biodiversity, and pretty much all other natural factors are very different from what the author experienced growing up. I think for that reason it took me a bit to get into the book, to really connect with what Atleework was narrating and describing, but I've hit that point and now I feel like everything is flowing.That's something important I want to say to potential readers of this book: it is slow and, honestly, kind of boring at first, but once you get past that, the author narrates more of her family life and history and focuses less on describing the landscape with excuciating detail. She still does, but I think by that point, the readers are used to that. I've said this before, but I'll explain it a little bit better because I think that way you'll understand my three-star rating. Although I didn't find anything particularly *wrong* with this book, I didn't think it was my type of book at all, so I didn't connect with it in ways other people would. That's why I gave it the rating that I did. I didn't think it was really fair to give it four stars because, other than entertaining me and teaching me about another place's geography, it didn't do much for me. There are a few content warnings that I think you should consider before reading this book. You can perfectly skip the sections where they are mentioned, so it's not like you can't read the entire book because of them. There are mentions of self-harm and attempted sexual assault, both, I think, in the same chapter. If you can, get someone else to read it before and let you know what to skip. 
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  • Paige Green
    January 1, 1970
    Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.Book: Miracle CountryAuthor: Kendra AtleeworkBook Series: StandaloneRating: 5/5Recommended For...: autobiography, non-fiction, California history, memoir, environment Publication Date: June 16. 2020Genre: Autobiography MemoirRecommended Age: (death, TW self-harm, TW sexual assault, TW suicide idealations)Publisher: Pages:Synopsis: Kendra Atleework grew up in Swall Meadows, in the Owens Valley of the Eastern Sier Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.Book: Miracle CountryAuthor: Kendra AtleeworkBook Series: StandaloneRating: 5/5Recommended For...: autobiography, non-fiction, California history, memoir, environment Publication Date: June 16. 2020Genre: Autobiography MemoirRecommended Age: (death, TW self-harm, TW sexual assault, TW suicide idealations)Publisher: Pages:Synopsis: Kendra Atleework grew up in Swall Meadows, in the Owens Valley of the Eastern Sierra Nevada, where annual rainfall averages five inches and in drought years measures closer to zero. Kendra’s family raised their children to thrive in this harsh landscape, forever at the mercy of wildfires, blizzards, and gale-force winds. Most of all, the Atleework children were raised on unconditional love and delight in the natural world. But it came at a price. When Kendra was six, her mother was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, and she died when Kendra was sixteen. Her family fell apart, even as her father tried to keep them together. Kendra took flight from her bereft family, escaping to the enemy city of Los Angeles, and then Minneapolis, land of all trees, no deserts, no droughts, full lakes, water everywhere you look. But after years of avoiding the pain of her hometown, she realized that she had to go back, that the desert was the only place she could live. Like Wild, Miracle Country is a story of flight and return, bounty and emptiness, and the true meaning of home. But it also speaks to the ravages of climate change and its permanent destruction of the way of life in one particular town.Review: For the most part I really enjoyed this book! The book did really good dancing back and forth between the past and the present and I really liked how the duel POVs did. The characters were really compelling and the world building was also really well done.The only thing that really didn’t do well for me was the pacing. It was really slow in the beginning and the book didn’t have a fast pace throughout the book, which might not do well for some readers.Verdict: A very well done novel!
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  • Ritu | Bohemian Bibliophile
    January 1, 1970
    The mention of the California desert conjures up an image of barren, dry, and arid land. What is it like to grow up on such a land? What is it that drives people to make it their home? Miracle Country is a debut memoir by author Kendra Atleework about a part of California that few people talk about.Through a non-linear narrative, it follows the author’s journey as she and her family struggle with the loss of her mother. Escaping to Los Angeles and then Minneapolis (that is more bountiful) before The mention of the California desert conjures up an image of barren, dry, and arid land. What is it like to grow up on such a land? What is it that drives people to make it their home? Miracle Country is a debut memoir by author Kendra Atleework about a part of California that few people talk about.Through a non-linear narrative, it follows the author’s journey as she and her family struggle with the loss of her mother. Escaping to Los Angeles and then Minneapolis (that is more bountiful) before making peace with the memories and returning back home.The book is as much a memoir as it is about the history of California. The transformation of the desert into a city. The author shares how it was growing up in such harsh terrain. She also discusses wildfires, droughts, water wars, how nature can be unforgiving, the Paiute people and the injustice they suffered. The amount of research is evident.The writing style is poetic and a good attempt by a debut author. She manages to combine the two narratives (family history and the history of California) effortlessly. Also, nature is more of a character in the book that I found interesting.Every family cultivates a culture and lives by its own strangeness until the strangeness turns normal and the rest of the world looks a bit off.What did not work for me was the pacing of the book. Due to the non-linear narrative, it does take a while to get into it. Since it is not a memoir in the truest sense, it would appeal more to history buffs than those who enjoy memoirs.All in all, I enjoyed the book. It is moving and at times thought-provoking. If you enjoy reading memoirs with a generous dose of history, I would recommend you pick this book.I received an ARC from Algonquin Books for the blog tour. All opinions are my own.
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  • ranae scott
    January 1, 1970
    If you’ve ever felt the lure of the desert, read this book.If you’ve ever known the capricious wonders and humbling force of the eastern Sierra, read this book.If you’ve scrambled up peaks or powered up boulders that make Bishop a world-renowned climbing destination, read this book.If you’ve hiked along the high Sierra’s winding trails, and think fondly of Bishop as a cute little stop-off and resupply point, read this book.If you’ve drank in some way or other of the Land of Flowing Water, but do If you’ve ever felt the lure of the desert, read this book.If you’ve ever known the capricious wonders and humbling force of the eastern Sierra, read this book.If you’ve scrambled up peaks or powered up boulders that make Bishop a world-renowned climbing destination, read this book.If you’ve hiked along the high Sierra’s winding trails, and think fondly of Bishop as a cute little stop-off and resupply point, read this book.If you’ve drank in some way or other of the Land of Flowing Water, but don’t know where that water now flows, or why, or at what cost – read this book.Miracle Country isn’t just informative. Kendra’s pose adroitly weaves Bishop’s rich and thorny past within the context of her own. She shares much about family, and the magic of adolescence; about loss, and how it often comes without fair warning or a justifiable why; and about how our own history gains clarity when it intermingles with others.Kendra’s narrative – both highly personal, and one of great scope – guides us along with a desert aesthetic. It honors beauty in the simple, art in the subtle, and the power of contrast. You’ll chuckle, you’ll guffaw; you’ll fill a pile of tissues with snotty tears. You’ll examine just how your own life is tied up with your past, and the pasts that came before. And you’ll finish with the fresh reminder every place has its own stories to tell. And, with hope – that no matter how dark the corridors we must sometimes walk, there’s bound to be a sliver of light waiting to guide us back.
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  • Caitlin Myer
    January 1, 1970
    Kendra Atleework's Miracle Country is written in epic scale to match the landscape she loves; I can picture the desert winds carving Atleework herself into being, like the canyons inscribed over millennia, curlicues drawn into the face of the rock. "In Owens Valley," she writes, "the wind guested to seventy miles per hour, to ninety, to one hundred, shoving cars across the highway and pitting windshields with blown sand."Atleework writes with a poet's music and a historian's sense of proportion. Kendra Atleework's Miracle Country is written in epic scale to match the landscape she loves; I can picture the desert winds carving Atleework herself into being, like the canyons inscribed over millennia, curlicues drawn into the face of the rock. "In Owens Valley," she writes, "the wind guested to seventy miles per hour, to ninety, to one hundred, shoving cars across the highway and pitting windshields with blown sand."Atleework writes with a poet's music and a historian's sense of proportion. She juxtaposes the outsize landscape with the humans who are foolish/romantic/ferocious enough to locate themselves in a land that most would consider nearly uninhabitable. She moves with surety between stories of disaster and beauty; the people who believed they could reshape the land itself (and did!) and those who allow the land to shape them. Weaved in and through is Atleework's family story, and how it spins outward from grief. There is a moment in the book when Atleework describes a memory that was not a memory after all. The false memory of bodies after a plane crash is dense with emotion and rich sensory detail, so vivid it has imprinted on my imagination as well--and through a kind of alchemy, the false memory only amplified the real experiences in this book. The Atleeworks, like other desert people, live in uneasy balance with the violence of their landscape; but as with other desert people, no softer place can ever be home for the author.A gorgeous book, the kind you can re-read a dozen times and learn something new on each journey through the words.
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  • LINDA D.
    January 1, 1970
    This book - I don't have enough words of exultation to describe how much I love it. It is the best memoir I have ever read and I have read way more than a few! Kendra's writing is eloquent throughout the book and heart wrenching when she describes the death of her mother and the aftermath, each family member "torched" by the loss, but working through in his or own way. I have read it twice now and listened to it read by Cassandra Campbell (narrator of Help and Where the Crawdads Sing). Through s This book - I don't have enough words of exultation to describe how much I love it. It is the best memoir I have ever read and I have read way more than a few! Kendra's writing is eloquent throughout the book and heart wrenching when she describes the death of her mother and the aftermath, each family member "torched" by the loss, but working through in his or own way. I have read it twice now and listened to it read by Cassandra Campbell (narrator of Help and Where the Crawdads Sing). Through smiles and tears I read sentences over and over just because of the gorgeous prose Kendra employs. The book is also a history lesson about the Eastern Sierra, the Native Americans who predated the first settlers, the water wars of California in the Owens Valley and specifically William Mulholland and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.More than anything, though, this book is a story about family and Kendra's unbreakable bond with her family and her home in the Eastern Sierra. It is an especially beautiful and touching tribute to her well deserving father, Robert Atlee.“(My father) knows his place among what is larger and older than he, and it is knowledge of this role, of a human as something brief and potentially joyful, that he passes to his children, the way another father might pass on a prayer,” Atleework writes.If you don't read another book this year, or if you add it to your queue, please read this one! It will have a long lasting impact on you I promise!
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  • forsanolim
    January 1, 1970
    I was given a copy of this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers to review (unbiasedly), and I absolutely adored it.This book is billed as a memoir, and it is; it recounts her childhood in a small town in the Eastern Sierras; her family's dynamics, especially those involving her mother, who passed away from an autoimmune disease when Kendra was 16; the drive to escape the Eastern Sierras that led her to LA and Minnesota; and her eventual return. But it also interweaves Kendra's memories with I was given a copy of this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers to review (unbiasedly), and I absolutely adored it.This book is billed as a memoir, and it is; it recounts her childhood in a small town in the Eastern Sierras; her family's dynamics, especially those involving her mother, who passed away from an autoimmune disease when Kendra was 16; the drive to escape the Eastern Sierras that led her to LA and Minnesota; and her eventual return. But it also interweaves Kendra's memories with the history of the Eastern Sierras region, the history of the Paiute tribe and the continuing water-rights saga that has parched the region to help SoCal spread. And it does so masterfully.I loved this book so much. The love that Kendra has for her home region is extremely clear, and the nature writing throughout this book, the way that it anchors Kendra's story to the land, is excellent. (There are also a lot of references to and quotes from other nature writers, especially female ones--Mary Austin, Terry Tempest Williams, Rebecca Solnit, Ellen Meloy.) More generally, the prose is overall lovely and lyrical. The story definitely isn't linear in the slightest, which was a bit surprising at the beginning, but it worked really well. And if there ever was a book to be read outdoors, this is definitely one of them--I read the entire thing sitting outside over the course of a couple days, and I'm tremendously glad I did so.
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  • Ailyn
    January 1, 1970
    Miracle Country is a beautifully written book that blends memoir and nature writing into a work that observes how our physical environment shapes the landscape of our being.Kendra Atleework writes about growing up in Owens Valley and introduces it to the reader like it’s an old friend, comparing the names of streams and peaks to stanzas in poetry and letting us know the nicknames her family has given certain places based on personal events that have happened there. I love how she walks us throug Miracle Country is a beautifully written book that blends memoir and nature writing into a work that observes how our physical environment shapes the landscape of our being.Kendra Atleework writes about growing up in Owens Valley and introduces it to the reader like it’s an old friend, comparing the names of streams and peaks to stanzas in poetry and letting us know the nicknames her family has given certain places based on personal events that have happened there. I love how she walks us through her personal journey of growing up in the area, and how she describes her parents as sort of anchors to this place that she keeps returning to. Speaking of her parents, it was hard to read some of the sections about her mom. I’ve also lost a parent, and I related so much to the passages describing feeling her absence in major life events. But I also loved the idea of finding home in a familiar area, no matter how many changes that area may go through.In addition to her personal experiences, I appreciated how Atleework discusses the history of the area, touching on gentrification, Hetch Hetchy and the conflict over water, and white settlers stealing land from the Paiute, among other injustices. This is a book to get lost in and find yourself. It has hard truths and messy histories, but it also has a lot of tenderness and growth.
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  • Angela (Scentofapage)
    January 1, 1970
    First of all, I will just say that there were so many great quotes in this book. One of my favorites in which I read over and over is: “Maybe because I am high up on this ladder, I remember: When I was a kid, I understood that I could fly. Not in a way that compelled me to leap from heights, though the urge was strong enough. How fun it would be, Pop has often remarked, to soar like a hawk, to kick from a mountain into air and skip the treacherous down-climb. If you have climbed anything at all, First of all, I will just say that there were so many great quotes in this book. One of my favorites in which I read over and over is: “Maybe because I am high up on this ladder, I remember: When I was a kid, I understood that I could fly. Not in a way that compelled me to leap from heights, though the urge was strong enough. How fun it would be, Pop has often remarked, to soar like a hawk, to kick from a mountain into air and skip the treacherous down-climb. If you have climbed anything at all, you know it is easier to go up than to come down.”What I enjoyed about this book is that it was a perfect mix of both the history of the family and of the Eastern Sierra Nevada. I really enjoyed the authors portrayal of living in a small desert town and the weather conditions in which the family had to live in. Her use of imagery made me feel that I was there myself. My one gripe is that the author used a non-linear timeline. In many parts of the book I was a bit confused on the sudden jump from one paragraph to next that led to either a flash back in time or a completely different topic. I also would have liked to have understand what her mother's rare autoimmune disease was. A big THANK YOU to Algonquin and the author for sending me a copy of this book!
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