Falling Apart

North-central Idaho is rugged can­yon, mountain, and ranch country.  Its dominant culture is that of the British and American borderlands.  Its people are descendants of 19th-century pioneers and homesteaders (some of them Missouri Confederates who went west after the war).  They are fiercely individualistic, but they also take care of one another.  They know how to hunt, fish, fix things, and, should times get really bad, how to survive.  (Think of Hank Williams, Jr.’s famous song of 1981.)  These tough, resilient people are the subject of Brian Hart’s first novel, Then Came the Evening.

Hart is a native son with a working-class background (carpentry, welding, fishing), and he doesn’t much like what is happening to his beloved state.  Despite Montana’s reputation as “the last best place,” it is her neighbor to the west that is the last of the Rocky Mountain States to be “discovered.”  Not by Lewis and Clark, of course, but by the rootless rich and the metronaturals (affluent outdoorsy urban vagabonds).  As one of Hart’s characters puts it, “we’re being colonized.”  That concern runs throughout the novel.  Hart’s theme is the destruction of nature and community—all that is authentic and beautiful—by war, rootlessness, and money.

The setting of his tale is Lake Fork, Idaho,...

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