The Wild Marsh
Four Seasons at Home in Montana
By Rick Bass
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780547055169, 384pp.)
Publication Date: July 1, 2009
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The Wild Marsh is Rick Bass’s most mature, full account of life in the Yaak and a crowning achievement in his celebrated career. It begins with his family settling in for the long Montana winter, and captures all the subtle harbingers of change that mark each passing month — the initial cruel teasing of spring, the splendor and fecundity of summer, and the bittersweet memories evoked by fall.
It is full of rich observation about what it takes to live in the valley — ruggedness, improvisation and, of course, duct tape. The Wild Marsh is also tremendously poignant, especially when Bass reflects on what it means for his young daughters to grow up surrounded by the strangeness and wonder of nature. He shares with them the Yaak’s little secrets — where the huckleberries are best in a dry year, where to find a grizzly’s claw marks in an old cedar — and discovers that passing on this intimate local knowledge, the knowledge of home, is a kind of rare and valuable love.
Bass emerges not just as a writer but as a father, a neighbor, and a gifted observer, uniquely able to bring us close to the drama and sanctity of small things, ensuring that though the wilderness is increasingly at risk, the voice of the wilderness will not disappear.
RICK BASS’s fiction has received O. Henry Awards, numerous Pushcart Prizes, awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. Most recently, his memoir Why I Came West was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.