As narrator and participant, Pogue comes across as a slacker socialist, given to driving around the West and staying on public lands that make up nearly half of all territory in the Great Basin ... His personal story can seem like padding the narrative or trying too hard to justify his compromised choices in Malheur, but he has the luck of being in certain places at certain times, empathetic enough to understand what he sees unfold before him. At a time where right and left, urban and rural seem hardened into distinct sides, Pogue serves as a translator ... land buyouts are happening at the behest of environmental groups. I can see both sides with the ranchers and in Pogue’s retelling. The beauty in his writing is in how he earns their trust and takes seriously their concerns ... Pogue struggles with why we can’t talk to the other side; why the militia groups can’t see the bigger issues, the corporate capitalism that fuels the injustices the occupiers lament ... Left out of his narrative are the Native Americans like the Northern Paiute, whose territory spread far across eastern Oregon and northern Nevada and who’ve been in the region for some 10,000 years.
...[a] fascinating debut ... In Chosen Country, Pogue does an exceptional job of explaining how one of the most bizarre and divisive events in recent U.S. history came to pass ... His book is remarkably evenhanded, but he doesn't shy away from exploring his own history and emotional response to the events in Oregon ... And while at times he's certainly sympathetic to the attitudes of the occupiers, he doesn't treat them with kid gloves ... Pogue turns out to be uniquely qualified to explain how discontent in the West led to a series of breakdowns that have broken our country, and are far from over.
...a critical, firsthand look at the attempted uprising ... Pogue provides plenty of necessary context, but there’s precious little about the standoff itself. What he does describe precisely illuminates how uninteresting most of the occupation was ... Chosen Country isn’t the definitive text on the Malheur fiasco—Pogue assumes readers closely followed the story on national news, and the book requires a fair amount of background knowledge to keep one’s bearings amid its time-jumping narrative ... He writes in breathless, lengthy, circuitous sentences, but more often than not does so lucidly and arrestingly ... Chosen Country is a smart and emotional read.
Chosen Country, Pogue's book-length treatment of the Malheur saga, is an intriguing document of our times ... It's a second draft of history, let's say, one that captures the author's attitude toward his material as it's still evolving ... Many an unsuspecting reader will likely be puzzled by how much space Pogue spends on Pogue ... But Pogue's presence on the page as a flesh-and-blood character (albeit a frequently annoying one) is not without advantages ... Chosen Country ends on a paradoxically eloquent expression of its own incompleteness.
A would-be Hunter S. Thompson, he includes far more than you want to know about his own drinking, smoking, drug use, tattoos, girlfriends, beloved grandmother, and brushes with the law. Nonetheless, there is an extravagant verve to his writing ... Pogue gets in amazingly deep with these western rebels.
Pogue’s personal anecdotes and brief history of western land-use conflicts add flavor and context to his chronicle of the standoff ... Pogue was able to portray the central characters with more dimension than found in news accounts.
A young man from Cincinnati, the author does not ignore his own youthful passions and weaknesses, including accounts of his drinking, drug use, sexual adventures, lassitude, and wanderlust ... Pogue does allow some of his stories to drift past the point of interest ... Courageous on-site reporting underlies all, outweighing some excess and irrelevance.
...[an] uneven first book ... His description of some of the subjects as friends, the lack of any perspective from the federal agents on the other side, and overdramatic assertions such as 'evil was being actively loosed on the land' do raise some questions about his impartiality.