... astonishing ... a magnificent novel. Loskutoff’s prose is masterful, and his character-driven tale moves at an easy pace but is threaded with bloodshed and brutality. Throughout the Bitterroot Valley --- and as Ruthie continues to seek solace --- frustration, fear and sorrow manifest as violence and anger. Loskutoff allows the moments of tenderness in nature and humanity to hit readers like a sledgehammer. The end of the novel sprints toward a moralistic message but does so in a fantastical, almost surreal way ... In the Bitterroot Valley, like everywhere, the balance of nature is fragile, and worlds both internal and external hide terrible and splendid depths. Ruthie Fear is a proud, charming and compelling field guide to those depths.
...clear-cut symbolism is turned on its head in one of the book’s many surprising and stunning moments when the creatures turn out to be more than simple metaphors in man’s complicated and abusive relationship with nature ... In this book Loskutoff hones and deepens the unique skill he showcased in his debut, the short story collection Come West and See: a capacity for human complexity, the talent to hold beauty and ugliness at once. The novel’s characters—most notably Ruthie and Rutherford—are sympathetic and unsympathetic in turn ... All the way to the shocking end of the book, it is impossible to say for sure whether ruin will be served by the natural world itself or by the modern world collapsing onto itself.
Loskutoff neither divides his characters into villains and victims nor presents them as objects of condescension or condemnation. His focus is rather on the ways in which conditions that produce despair create and maintain the kind of collective psychic inflammation that can incite the impulse to violence—even rampage—in any of us. It’s an impulse from which some of us are more insulated than others, but none of us is immune.
The mundane and the extraordinary converge ... the arc of this novel is anything but predictable. Its conclusion represents a bold and potentially divisive decision on Loskutoff’s part—but ultimately a powerful and evocative one that casts a number of earlier scenes in sharp relief. With resonant characters and a great sense of place, this novel rarely goes where you’d expect, and is stronger for it.