A novel that examines the aftershocks of an act of domestic terrorism rooted in a small Montana town on the brink of abandonment, as it tears apart a family, tests the faith of a pastor and the loyalty of a sister, and mines the deep rifts that come when the reach of the government clashes with individual freedom.
... [Hulse] she delivers this tough material with unusual gentleness. Her style doesn’t soften her subject matter, exactly, but gives it a slower, more contemplative feel ... The grace with which Hulse depicts it is enchanting, if a little bemusing: Should a story about domestic terrorism feel so cozy? ... imagery makes for Hulse’s loveliest writing ... This is a funny way to write about domestic terrorism — to dab in some faith healing and plein-air painting...at times feels disorienting because Hulse is striving to preserve the intimacy of western tropes (protecting the homestead, keeping the family whole) while stretching its canvas. Big Sky Country awkwardly expands to include the kind of violence that makes national news, with a hero whose brother is hard to sympathize with ... if Eden Mine is a peculiar western, it’s a welcome entry in the genre of terror-themed fiction, which since 9/11 has been prone to either Don DeLillo-esque geopolitical pronunciamentos or unsatisfying mind-of-a terrorist psychological studies ... Hulse’s eagerness to do that excavation alleviates some of the more cloying elements of the story: Asa’s tested faith, the noisily symbolic names of the mines, sources of original sin and punishment. And it pays off in the end: In the climactic closing scenes, Hulse delivers a thrillerish exploration of the dueling urges to save or punish in the face of violence.
A book can be carried by a strong voice, and that’s what we get with Jo Faber ... Samuel’s overwhelming absence comes at a cost: For the focal figure in a mystery of how a lost boy grows into a dangerous man, Samuel as a character is surprisingly thin and uneven. At times Hulse softens his extremism, as if his anger is too much for the reader to bear ... Hatred flows like water, forming itself into whatever vessel it’s provided, but Samuel’s shape constantly changes. Jo’s (heavy-handed) attempts to use her art to moralize and explain evil can’t excuse that ... Hulse’s talent is evidenced by her nuanced portrayal of Jo and the way she sees the world. In her relationship with Asa, in particular Hulse perfectly captures not only the landscape of the American West, but also what it feels like to survive in a town that is dying.
Mourning, loss, and love illuminate the pages of Hulse’s ruminative novel. Especially fine is her rendering of a person of faith struggling with doubt and the nature of evil. Fans of Annie Proulx may appreciate the novel’s pensive mood and the exploration of a place where people have few options and little hope.