The Mountain and the Fathers explores the life of boys and men in the unforgiving, harsh world north of the Bull Mountains of eastern Montana in a drought afflicted area called the Big Dry, a land that chews up old and young alike. Joe Wilkins was born into this world, raised by a young mother and elderly grandfather following the untimely death of his father. That early loss stretches out across the Big Dry, and Wilkins uses his own story and those of the young boys and men growing up around him to examine the violence, confusion, and rural poverty found in this distinctly American landscape. Ultimately, these lives put forth a new examination of myth and manhood in the American west and cast a journalistic eye on how young men seek to transcend their surroundings in the search for a better life. Rather than dwell on grief or ruin, Wilkins’ memoir posits that it is our stories that sustain us, and The Mountain and The Fathers, much like the work of Norman MacClean or Jim Harrison, heralds the arrival of an instant literary classic.
***A 2012 Montana Book Award Honor Book***
***Finalist for the 2013 Orion Book Award***
***Winner of the 2014 GLCA New Writers Award in Nonfiction***
Joe Wilkins writes his truths straight from the broken heart of a broken land. When I read his personal stories, so lyrically and wondrously imagined, I feel a beautiful and sometimes terrifying emotion rise up in me–mythic, redemptive, and sustaining. If you want to read what matters, read this. -Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men and In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country
Joe Wilkins grew up hard in the middle of nowhere—the bent-back, make-do world of the driest, loneliest country in all Montana—and after reading this memoir about the West, about myth, about manhood, about grief and transcendence, I felt at once heartbroken and hopeful and ultimately awed by his ability to twist sentences like barbed wire, his voice wondrously rich with dirt-and-gravel poetry. -Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding and Refresh, Refresh
Joe Wilkins grew up on the enormous plains of eastern Montana. He found plenty to respect and revere and plenty to escape. And he learned the stories and how to tell them. The Mountain and the Fathers is vivid and compelling. We’re reading it in Montana in order to understand ourselves. And for the pure pleasure we find in the storytelling. -William Kittredge, author of Owning It All and A Hole in the Sky
Joe Wilkins’ sketches of life in Montana’s Big Dry country, north of Billings and halfway to nowhere, are filled with a potent combination of loving poetry and bitter nostalgia. You can smell the sage and wild onions and feel how this land apart forms and twists those who live there, and sometimes kills them. Wilkins’ search for his father –and for himself – takes its own twist: the Big Dry may care nothing for pilgrims and father seekers, but it marks its own as surely as a father marks a son. -John N. Maclean, son of Norman Maclean and author of Fire on the Mountain