... poignant and skillful ... precise observations ... Atleework captures how the history of the landscape affects how people feel in the present in prose charged with emotion. Her passion for the region is clear, as is her own authority as a resident and a researcher. Because of this, even when Atleework isn’t referencing these water rights or the landscape explicitly, the scenes are imbued with importance and urgency, influenced by their setting. Atleework, too, fluidly blends the history of this region with her own family history. The landscape is more than a backdrop for memories of growing up, more than a setting for her childhood lessons; instead, the desert and surrounding mountains drive and shape both her memories and these lessons ... a beautiful read, Atleework’s prose steeped in her passion for the region and her striking observations. Even more, though, the memoir is important because it reveals Atleework’s deep understanding of the region, of a life defined by an absence, and she points us to the power in this understanding—it can be a tool to stay safe in a desert or on a cliff, a way to connect with other people, a call to counteract climate change, or, as in Atleework’s case, a reason to return home.
... to sit down for a few hours with a book in which the author extols the virtues of her family despite its flaws, pays homage to the (yes, very rural) place she’s called home for most of her life, and writes with hard-earned insight and candor about the very pressing issues of California’s water shortage and climate change’s toll on the planet? Now that’s truly something special and refreshing. Kendra Atleework’s powerful debut, Miracle Country, is the rare trifecta that seamlessly blends personal narrative with historical nonfiction and highly charged, activist-style rhetoric with rarely a misstep or heavy hand ... History buffs will delight in reading about California’s early days before the drought, before the lack of jobs and affordable housing, when the land was verdant and the water flowed freely ... Mostly, what stands out in Miracle Country is Atleework’s gorgeous prose matched equally by her deep-rooted sense of and appreciation for the place she has always called home.
Atleework remembers her family's roots and explores the history of California's arid Eastern Sierras in her debut. Drawing parallels between her upbringing and the region's history, the memoir celebrates her home and the region while lovingly portraying her family's eccentricities. Her ability to relay naturalistic majesty in exquisite detail is dynamic yet tender, resulting in captivating storytelling ... The memories of her family seem disconnected and the writing is flat compared with Atleework's ability to pen a natural history. Her parents' narrative is well-developed, but her brother is merely a footnote while her sister's influence is a blip. Whereas her environmental writing has vivacity, the depictions of Atleework's family render them as mundane ... Whereas Austin's voice is the most developed, the sheer quantity of other perspectives muddies her account ... Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.
Carefully braided through Miracle Country is a complex history of water in the Eastern Sierra—the struggle over who owns it, who takes it, and where they take it from ... It would be easy to assume that Miracle Country is another depressing account of the consequences of climate change and urban development. Instead, the author has pieced together an intimate portrait of one family’s resilience and a community deeply rooted in the Eastern Sierra. Memories of her mother and her family are written with candor and affection, and the land comes alive through her prose. We are tied to our landscape, and Kendra Atleework is a fresh voice reminding us of that fact.
Atleework’s shimmering memoir is set in California’s Eastern Sierra, where water is never far from the minds of those living there ... Both memoir and memorial to place, this account has a haunting quality of sadness and loss, of well-watered land that could have been, and of family that might have been different ... However, more than a work of environmental change or history of place, this is a love letter of sorts to Atleework’s mother. Her presence is felt in every page, and it is in the pursuit of peace amid her loss that ultimately brings Atleework home ... A bittersweet tribute to home and family in breathtaking prose that will appeal to lovers of memoirs and history, as well as anyone who enjoys beautifully crafted writing.
Essayist Atleework recalls her family roots and explores the history of California’s arid Eastern Sierras in her ambitious, beautiful debut ... Atleework’s remarkable prose renders the ordinary wondrous and firmly puts this overlooked region of California onto the map.
A sensitive, thoughtful portrait of a part of California that few people see—or want to ... [a] sometimes repetitive account ... A welcome update of classic works on California’s arid backcountry by Mary Austin, Marc Reisner, and Reyner Banham.