Heart of the Beast: A Novel

Front Cover
Simon and Schuster, Feb 1, 2002 - Fiction - 384 pages
2 Reviews
In her remarkable debut, Joyce Weatherford writes with raw power, muscular beauty, and firsthand experience about life in the twentieth-century American West.
Bringing us to the golden plains of northeast Oregon, Joyce Weatherford presents the saga of the Steele family -- a family built not on love but on farming. Twenty-eight-year-old Iris Steele has inherited the 150-year-old family ranch and all the debt that goes with it -- a legacy, all in all, she is not certain she wants. It is the ranch where Iris has spent her life, where she grew up herding cattle and harvesting wheat, and where her brother and her father both died. It is also, it turns out, the land once owned by the Nez Perce Indian tribe, and suddenly the modern Nez Perce are suing to reclaim what they say is rightfully theirs.
To save the ranch, Iris must spend months untangling generations of family history to understand the land's legitimate ownership -- a process that unearths not only her family past but also the history of the American West and two hundred years of tortured relationships between homesteaders and Native Americans. Meanwhile, she is fighting to manage a new wheat crop, broken machinery, and her ever-fragile romance with her childhood friend, the local farmhand-turned-doctor. And as the truth of the land's ownership begins to emerge, so do surprising realities about the Steele family -- such as the startling stories behind the deaths of Iris's father and brother, and her aunt's institutionalization. In the end, Iris realizes she has inherited not just the land but its history as well, and that it's a history from which she must break free in order to discover love, forgiveness, and who she really is.
Joyce Weatherford demonstrates an astonishing control of language, combining unflinching descriptions of ranch life with the sensuous beauty of the Oregon landscape, communicating such vivid physical detail that we feel we are right alongside Iris in the corral, in the field, on her horse. She conveys perfectly the danger, the suspense, the awe and energy in those moments when man meets, battles, and harnesses nature: fighting wildfire; harvesting grain; chasing runaway horses; hunting coyotes from a beat-up propeller plane; herding, branding, birthing, and castrating cattle.
Heart of the Beast is a portrait of the relationship between the settlers of the Pacific Northwest and the region's indiginous people, of the demise of the family farm in the face of corporate agribusiness, and of the redemptive power of forgiveness. Part romance, mystery, courtroom drama, and American history, this is a family saga of epic power and importance.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - KAzevedo - LibraryThing

I'm surprised to see that so few on LT have this book and none have reviewed it. It's about a family and their land, a common theme, but it's not a common book. I found it to be raw and rage-filled ... Read full review

HEART OF THE BEAST

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Astonishingly accomplished debut pits a fiercely independent, emotionally scarred descendant of rapacious Oregon ranchers against members of the Nez Perce Indian tribe—in a courtroom battle for the ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Section 1
7
Section 2
18
Section 3
28
Section 4
38
Section 5
48
Section 6
61
Section 7
72
Section 8
88
Section 19
213
Section 20
220
Section 21
233
Section 22
245
Section 23
260
Section 24
273
Section 25
285
Section 26
290

Section 9
101
Section 10
113
Section 11
125
Section 12
141
Section 13
148
Section 14
161
Section 15
179
Section 16
188
Section 17
194
Section 18
203
Section 27
299
Section 28
311
Section 29
327
Section 30
339
Section 31
348
Section 32
364
Section 33
373
Section 34
383
Copyright

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Page 13 - My Bonnie lies over the ocean, My Bonnie lies over the sea, My Bonnie lies over the ocean, Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me.

About the author (2002)

Joyce Weatherford's family landed in Oregon via the Oregon Trail in 1851, and Joyce grew up as a fifth-generation farmer working on her family's wheat and cattle ranch. She now lives in California with her husband and son.

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