by Gabino Iglesias for High Country News Sept. 9, 2020
In a small Montana town, there’s a thing with feathers. Hope? Not so much.
Maxim Loskutoff’s debut novel explores the fraught history of the Bitterroot Valley.
In the foothills of the Sapphire Mountains in southwestern Montana, elk are bleeding. Some are dead. Others are still alive, torn by bullets, their panicked eyes searching the landscape for a way to escape. This bloodbath was caused by hunters: A few are locals who understand the “communion between hunter and prey,” but others are “weekenders in from Missoula” who have no respect for the land. Instead of rifles, they carry military-grade AKs and bump-stocked AR-15s. Ruthie Fear, the protagonist of Maxim Loskutoff’s eponymous novel, belongs to the first group, but the carnage around her keeps her from focusing; when she finally shoots, she has no idea whether her bullet has found its target. Ruthie thinks the weekenders are ruining everything, changing the landscape and forever altering life in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. In his gritty debut novel, Loskutoff explores the dissolution of a mill town whose mill has shuttered, ultimately suggesting that in this destruction may be a tortured form of renewal.