Rough Beauty

Forty Seasons of Mountain Living

by Karen Auvinen

I’m disappointed to say this book didn’t really get a hold on me in any way. It reminds me of The Salt Path in that a terrible disaster strikes the author near the beginning, leaving her with almost nothing. It reminds me of Fox and I because it’s about a woman who felt she didn’t fit in, who needed to find her own way and much preferred living alone, in wild spaces. But sadly I didn’t get much sense of those spaces, or of her wildlife observations, even though she mentions taking copious notes of them, she never really shares them in detail. The book is more about her difficult childhood, uneven friendships with people in town, a man she briefly dates after being single for over a decade, amazingly delicious food she cooks, her writing, the many ways that snow falls and cold closes in, sputtering attempts at a garden in the brief season (too much shade and wild animals eating things), admiration of hummingbirds, and struggles to deal with her elderly mother’s failing health (which brings up close contact with her estranged siblings). In the few final pages she describes a disastrous mudslide and flood that buried much of her town and finally meeting a man who loved her completely and made her feel safe. She tends to her beloved dog through his final days, and then moves on to live elsewhere. It’s a book about someone’s life, and very much about the dog her close companion- though I admit the cover beguiled me, thinking there’d be a fox. Well there is– in the epilogue. A lovely fox that visits the cabin regularly for a while, and is featured on a handful of pages. I do really like that the cover image, and some watercolor paintings inside the book (reproduced in black and white) were created by the new man in her life. They’re of the actual place where she lived. I’m sorry this book didn’t resonate with me- it’s very nicely written, and is many things, none are quite what I expected though. Could just be wrong place, wrong time for this reader.

Rating: 3/5
302 pages, 2018

One Response

  1. It’s a real shame when a book just doesn’t deliver what you were hoping for. As you know that Rachel Carson book was the same for me. But it does make it all the more wonderful when an author gets it spot on.

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