Houston’s...latest essay collection...wields scorching honesty and heartfelt reflection ... Her search for a home to make her own, far from memories and deeply entrenched in the history of the land’s pioneer past, took Houston through a literary reckoning that cuts to the bone while offering succor for a shattered youth. Always impressive, Houston is in striking form here. Her talent remains remarkable and her words extraordinarily affecting and effective.
[Houston has] learned nothing, in other words, between the first pages and the last ... Houston has always wanted to be 'a child of the wilderness,' she tells us, but she’s now an elder; it’s time to do the hard work of connecting the dots between cause and effect... [To do so] would have been the beginning of a decent, possibly instructive memoir, or at least something beyond these sleepy musings.
Reading [Houston's] warm, reflective book about her beloved Colorado ranch is like sitting down with a friend — and after reading it, you understand why some of Houston’s are so devoted they would drive 10 hours through a blizzard to sit with her over a dying dog, or talk their way through roadblocks to rescue her horses from an oncoming wildfire ... [Houston's] writing displays the same attention to particulars demanded by ranch chores. When Houston describes a thunderstorm at high altitude, or the 360-degree view from the top of Copper Mountain, or a first warm day in April, she doesn’t indulge in self-consciously poetic language. Her precise, straightforward prose catalogues vivid physical details that accumulate to give us 'the thing itself' in its specific beauty ... The emotional core of Houston’s narrative lies in the connections she makes between her desolate childhood and her drive 'to love the damaged world and do what I can to help it thrive.'
What may come as a surprise...is that Houston developed PTSD from a childhood of mental and physical abuse ... But there is little bitterness in Deep Creek, which describes a place of hope ... this [is] perceptive work ... One of the memoir’s most engrossing sections describes 2013’s huge West Fork fire ... Houston’s dramatic account of this includes terms she learned about fire behavior and firefighting methods, helping readers appreciate the immense threat in times of drought ... learning to care for her land showed that all this time, it had cared for her.
Although [Houston] examines the forces that uniquely shaped her in Deep Creek, the collection is as universal as it is personal ... Deep Creek is one woman’s reckoning of her past and the land where she’s found herself, but it is also a reflection on what it means to be a soft-hearted human in an ever-changing and sometimes frightening world.
And it’s hard to live through one of the worst fires in Colorado’s history, a saga Houston dramatically reels out as she experiences it ... [Houston's] beautifully composed paean to wilderness living combines tales from her conflicted childhood with homestead journaling, descriptions of favorite animals, travels out to exotic places, and simple, homey happenings.
Houston writes with the same unvarnished, truth-loaded sentences that made her short story collection Cowboys Are My Weakness (1992) a contemporary classic ... A profound and inspiring love letter to one piece of Earth—and to the rest of it, as well.
Houston brings compassion, a deep sense of observation, and a profound sense of place ... Intimate but not sensationalized stories of Houston’s upbringing in an unstable suburban household with an abusive father and a neglectful, alcoholic mother set off her gratitude for an adult life lived in the midst of a sometimes perilous but beautiful landscape ... Houston’s vision finds a solid place among the chronicles of quiet appreciation of the American wilderness, without the misanthropy that often accompanies the genre; her passion for the land and its inhabitants is irresistibly contagious.