The strength of this book lies in Conover's voice, confident, observant, nonjudgmental. He seems to find everyone interesting. Still, he recognizes 'the needy are not always the good' ... The book's structure doesn't follow a strict chronology, nor does it follow one main character; readers expecting a traditional nonfiction narrative might be slightly at sea, at first. While the arc of the book is roughly chronological, the chapters are thematic.
Shaggy but engrossing ... The bulk of the book consists of discursive anecdotes about the people Conover met and often befriended ... One of Conover’s strengths as a writer is that he is willing to let his subjects 'say their piece.' He is wonderfully open to people’s understanding of themselves, even when he sees the world very differently ... Indeed, Conover seems reluctant to judge or theorize much about what he saw and heard in the San Luis Valley. Some might see this paucity of analysis as a problem with Cheap Land Colorado, and Conover to some degree invites the criticism. Early on, he suggests he was drawn to the prairie to answer big questions following the election of Donald Trump ... If understanding recent political shifts and the American mainstream was his goal, Conover fails spectacularly. But was that really his aim? Excise a few grandiose mission statements from this eye-opening book, and nothing is lost — and nothing seems to be missing. With his thorough and compassionate reportage, Conover conjures a vivid, mysterious subculture populated by men and women with riveting stories to tell.
One of our great narrative journalists ... Conover’s approach isn’t so much about pinning people down as letting them reveal themselves. He’s such a wry and nimble writer that much of the time this works, yielding rounded portraits that are full of ambiguity, anguish and contradiction ... Sometimes, though, Conover is so empathetic that he seems determined to put the most generous gloss on what people tell him.