Living at the Edge of the Promised Land
North Point Press, Hardcover, 9780865477032, 384pp.
Publication Date: February 19, 2008
Trespass is the story of one woman's struggle to gain footing in inhospitable territory. A wilderness activist and apostate Mormon, Amy Irvine sought respite in the desert outback of southern Utah's red-rock country after her father's suicide, only to find out just how much of an interloper she was among her own people. But more than simply an exploration of personal loss, Trespass is an elegy for a dying world, for the ruin of one of our most beloved and unique desert landscapes and for our vanishing connection to it. Fearing what her father's fate might somehow portend for her, Irvine retreated into the remote recesses of the Colorado Plateau--home not only to the world's most renowned national parks but also to a rugged brand of cowboy Mormonism that stands in defiant contrast to the world at large. Her story is one of ruin and restoration, of learning to live among people who fear the wilderness the way they fear the devil and how that fear fuels an antagonism toward environmental concerns that pervades the region. At the same time, Irvine mourns her own loss of wildness and disconnection from spirituality, while ultimately discovering that the provinces of nature and faith are not as distinct as she once might have believed.
Formerly a nationally ranked competitive rock climber, Amy Irvine was for five years the Development Director at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
“Fierce . . . the most vivid ground-level report from this war zone that I have ever read.”—Grace Lichtenstein, The Washington Post
“A story as raw and stinging as a fresh burn . . . Trespass might well be Desert Solitaire's literary heir . . . it's hard to imagine a personal history more transporting than this one, with its rigorously original prose (not a single cliché in 300-plus pages), emotional detail and bibliophilic departures into the musty caverns of American history. And then there are the lessons and metaphors Irvine weaves into her stricken, conflicted narrative. One can learn a great deal from "Trespass" about desert botany and geology, the politics of land management and the arcane lore of Mormonism.” —Judith Lewis, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“[Irvine] braids together threads of Mormon history, her own family’s stories and her quest of illumination, creating a singularly elegiac and astringent memoir of dissent . . . “—Donna Seaman, Chicago Tribune
“I hate that question that ends up on so many Q&As: If you could have five authors, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would you invite? How the hell should I know? Is James Joyce a picky eater? These things are important. Then I started reading Amy Irvine's Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land, and I not only wanted to invite her over, I wanted to get myself a gun and kill a goose for dinner . . . This is my kind of woman.” —Jessa Crispin, Bookslut
“A fierce and lyrical memoir.”—Orion
“An unusual hybrid that combines memoir, natural history, Western history, anthropology, and an examination of the Mormon religion . . . Luckily, [Irvine’s] clear, detailed prose will help ground readers as they try to keep up with the leaps of her fertile mind . . . a loud, bracing, honest cry from the wilderness.”—Jenny Shank, New West
“Irvine delivers a distinctive, affecting meditation on loss—an amalgam of personal history, natural history, and a search for spirituality . . . in unexpected places. “—Carmela Ciuraru, More
“Bold and original in her thinking, candid and lyrical in expression, Irvine launches a penetrating critique of Mormon sovereignty, the persistent oppression of women, the longing to belong versus the need to be one’s self, and the environmental havoc wrought by cattle ranching, “extreme recreationists,” and the federally sanctioned, post-9/11 rush to extract fossil fuels from protected public lands . . . Forthright and imaginative, sensitive and tough, Irvine joins red-rock heroes Edward Abbey and Terry Tempest Williams in breaking ranks and speaking up for the living world." —Booklist, starred review
“Irvine's language is lovely, her stories compelling. She shares deep insights.”—Julia Whitty, Mother Jones
“Compelling [and] beautifully written.”—Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman, Library Journal
“Irvine structures her memoir cannily around the four eras of local native American prehistoric culture (Lithic, Archaic, Basketmaker and Pueblo), each reflecting a period of migration and settlement in her own life . . . her views on wilderness preservation ring passionately.”—Publishers Weekly“Trespass is the story of one woman's escape: from the Mormon Church, from her father's demons, from her own self-sabotage. Irvine’s take on early Native Americans in the Southwest and hunter gathering as a way of life is extraordinary and original, as is the way she uses these thoughts to better understand her own place in the world. Trespass is also a tangled, fevered, ambivalent love story—the true kind.” —Nora Gallagher, author of Changing Light and Things Seen and Unseen
"Trespass is a flare shot up amid troubling forces and asks us not to imagine a new West, but instead to re-envision ourselves as its inhabitants." —Robert Redford
“Trespass is a book full of transgressions because Amy Irvine has dared to examine the nature of orthodoxy, be it religion, environmentalism, or marriage. What saves this book from simply becoming an indulgence is her fidelity and love for all things beautiful and broken, especially the redrock desert of southern Utah. If erosion is the face of a changing landscape, Amy Irving has written erosional prose. This is a transformative memoir that dances between shadow and light.” —Terry Tempest Williams, author of Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place and Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert
“The most lingering, destructive myth to come out of the American West has been the notion that sense of place is somehow derived from fierce independence. Amy Irvine knows better. Her beautiful prose, infused with the staggering breadth and texture of the Southwestern landscape, reminds us that home is a hunger. It is the hope for a life re-imagined, for relationships that stretch across centuries, full of tangle and sweat and heartbreaking possibility.”—Gary Ferguson, author of Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone and The Great Divide: A Biography of the American West
“Amy's writing is designed in the image of a landscape: desert writing, writing about bones and wind and stone. Some people try to write about this country, but their words are only dry and austere, as if that is all that is here. Amy's words truly dwell here. They deal as poetically with her father's suicide as they deal with facets of weather, with the myriad details of archaeology, geology, botany. This is not a natural history book in any common sense. It has the rhythm of arid writing: passing steadily from place to place, quick and then slow, here and then there. And it has the personal richness of a land where the rocks are made of blood.” —Craig Childs, author of Secret Knowledge of Water
“Amy Irvine’s Trespass is a harrowing and angry book, which ultimately wins us over by sheer, naked honesty. It is accurate to think of much of life in terms of damage control and Irvine eloquently presents her defense of the western landscape and the integrality of her own life.”—Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall
“There is heartbreak and there is love. The land can do that. There are the canyons gouged between the people who share the land. And there is writing as warm and harsh as the ground that birthed it. Amy Irvine has written a brilliant book about a place beyond our reach but within our dreams.”—Charles Bowden, author of Blood Orchid