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Miracle Country

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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 o 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.


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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 o 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.

30 review for Miracle Country

  1. 5 out of 5

    Clio

    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 remembering what came before - and holds our 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 ho 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 remembering what came before - and holds our 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    James Wade

    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

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie

    The California desert is as much of a character in this memoir as are the fascinating members of Kendra Atleework's family. The author has blended her touching family memoir with the history of California in such a lovely way. Her work is poetic, lyrical and mesmerizing. I listened to the audio book and looked forward to each moment when I was swept away by this magical book. Most highly recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Kiley | memoirs.of.a.booknerd

    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 😍⁣⁣

  6. 4 out of 5

    ☕️Hélène⚜️

    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

  7. 4 out of 5

    Zardoz

    I spend a lot of time outdoors and one of my favorite places in California is the 395 corridor. Every time I’m there I fantasize about moving to the area. Atleework grew up there and her book is a vivid description of her family’s experiences living in such a beautiful and harsh place. She has a real affinity for the area’s geography and history. This one is an instant classic.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Prendergast (lifeandbookswithme)

    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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David Abrams

    MIRACLE COUNTRY is a traveling machine, one that will zip you, in the time it takes to turn a page, from your seat to Sierra Nevada in California. Kendra Atleework has created a lyrical portrait of a place, its people (both Native and invader), and how the two try to co-exist in a high desert often sick from drought, but--in Atleework's hands--always beautiful. I want to visit Bishop and Swall Valley and Mount Tom....but, in a very real sense, I already have. Comparisons to Annie Dillard and Gret MIRACLE COUNTRY is a traveling machine, one that will zip you, in the time it takes to turn a page, from your seat to Sierra Nevada in California. Kendra Atleework has created a lyrical portrait of a place, its people (both Native and invader), and how the two try to co-exist in a high desert often sick from drought, but--in Atleework's hands--always beautiful. I want to visit Bishop and Swall Valley and Mount Tom....but, in a very real sense, I already have. Comparisons to Annie Dillard and Gretel Ehrlich are legit.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Angela Dee { angelas.bookshelf }

    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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    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.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    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 Atleework Their 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 Attleework The 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 Atleework The 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.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laila

    [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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    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

  16. 5 out of 5

    Oreoluwa

    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.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Larry Almeida

    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...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Connie Moyer

    Atleework's memoir shines through poetic expression. It combines history, physical science, natural science, literature, cultural injustices, and a love for family through personal loss wrapped in a beautiful 300 page package. Atleework has proven herself beyond a budding author with a love story expressed for California's Eastern Sierra and the Owens Valley that so many of us share. I can't wait to read her next story!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Margot

    This book is a complicated weaving together multiple threads (family history, life in an inhospitable environment, connection to place, history of California, land & water rights, etc.). It lost and overwhelmed me at times, but there was also enough to keep me going (unlikely connections, beautiful writing, exploration of unanswerable questions). But without some investment in one of those threads (for me, connection to place, growing up in an elsewhere), it would be a hard go. This book is a complicated weaving together multiple threads (family history, life in an inhospitable environment, connection to place, history of California, land & water rights, etc.). It lost and overwhelmed me at times, but there was also enough to keep me going (unlikely connections, beautiful writing, exploration of unanswerable questions). But without some investment in one of those threads (for me, connection to place, growing up in an elsewhere), it would be a hard go.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Boucher

    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.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Stevens

    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.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    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.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Willard

    Miracle Country A Memoir by Kendra Atleework Miracle 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 Atleework Miracle 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

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Mack

    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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn Smith

    This Heart lofting, expansive memoir of Kendra Atleework is stunning, cinematic and beautifully told. Her roots are in the arid mountains above Bishop, Ca. Her town is small and the rugged country dwarfs everything. Growing up, are bittersweet times and she resolves to expand her life outside of home, ultimately leaving and returning to Bishop, Ca. Her personal story is woven into eh long history of water rights, belonging and otherness in the impossible raw beauty of high desert.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Lindsay

    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.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    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*

  28. 5 out of 5

    Camila Arias

    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. 

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paige Green

    Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own. Book: Miracle Country Author: Kendra Atleework Book Series: Standalone Rating: 5/5 Recommended For...: autobiography, non-fiction, California history, memoir, environment Publication Date: June 16. 2020 Genre: Autobiography Memoir Recommended 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 Country Author: Kendra Atleework Book Series: Standalone Rating: 5/5 Recommended For...: autobiography, non-fiction, California history, memoir, environment Publication Date: June 16. 2020 Genre: Autobiography Memoir Recommended 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!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rory G.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 4.5 stars. A deliciously complicated and long-anticipated book. Coming from Atleework’s Best American essay, Miracle Country was not what I’d expected; it’s far less dark, and, despite its categorization as a memoir, hardly a record of its author. Rather, this is a memoir of a landscape and a father, of a collective memory and history, as seen from outside. Miracle Country reminded me of a more erudite A Glass Castle. Knocking one star (or half a star, if it’d let me,) for the use of quotes and 4.5 stars. A deliciously complicated and long-anticipated book. Coming from Atleework’s Best American essay, Miracle Country was not what I’d expected; it’s far less dark, and, despite its categorization as a memoir, hardly a record of its author. Rather, this is a memoir of a landscape and a father, of a collective memory and history, as seen from outside. Miracle Country reminded me of a more erudite A Glass Castle. Knocking one star (or half a star, if it’d let me,) for the use of quotes and the repetition of certain phrases. This is written in what I’d call long-form personal essay style, and it’s a bit disorienting, especially at the start (though, by the college section, I think Atleework gains perspective and confidence in this difficult writing form). Though the author of each quote is introduced (‘as the writer XYZ said...’’), the quotes themselves are often ‘dropped and abandoned,’ especially at the ends of paragraphs. This happens especially with Mary Austin, who is quoted so frequently without elaboration that I was almost compelled to put down MC and start reading its source material. However, that’s harsh; for the most part, Atleework’s prose is original and quietly breathtaking. The real problem is that quotes are stated and their significance is never elaborated upon. The connections are implicit, which is a no-no in the personal essay form of writing, at least as I learned it. Small quote rant aside, this book is lovely and gave me a new way to appreciate my own origins and hometown as a story that is deeply landscape-centric. Though told from anecdotes which are mixed together, moving back and forth in time on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, and though these anecdotes all span different lengths of the book and arc unexpectedly in different chapters, MC actually manages this feat of stitching memories in a-chronological order and then mixing those sensibly with outside source material. The book ends appropriately, and to my great satisfaction, with a return home, changed: a new house, but in the same valley and with the same family. Happy to have this book, finally! :)

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