Li Juan and her mother own a small convenience store in the Altai Mountains in Northwestern China, where she writes about her life among grasslands and snowy peaks. To her neighbors' surprise, Li decides to join a family of Kazakh herders as they take their 30 boisterous camels, 500 sheep and over 100 cattle and horses to pasture for the winter.
People can figure out how to survive under the most punishing circumstances, and learning about how these people do it—how they have done it for centuries—makes Winter Pasture an unlikely but inspiring getaway read for the late pandemic ... Winter Pastures is rich with the habits and textures of domestic life in the burrow, presided over by Cuma’s wife—known only as 'Sister-in-Law'—a warm but taciturn woman with a particular knack for roasting flatbread in, yes, sheep manure charcoal ... Peaceful and quiet are a pair of words that appear like incantations in the passages of Winter Pasture devoted to her deepest feelings ... Winter Pasture features some beautiful writing, particularly when describing the landscape.
A memoir about hauling snow, shoveling manure, and living in a mud hut in one of the harshest environments on earth may not sound like a pleasure read. Yet, miraculously, Li Juan’s Winter Pasture is somehow just that. Part travelogue and part cultural exchange, the book luxuriates in wide-open spaces and the simple wonder of the everyday ... Initially, there are some lazy colloquialisms to get past, but it’s hard to know whether they’re the fault of the author or the translators. Soon enough, the book finds its stride and balances both beauty and accessibility on every page ... Not much happens...Yet it is packed with charm and the same kind of lyrical nature prose found in Henry Beston’s The Outermost House, Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and the work of Tang poet Li Po ... I could feel the whisper of that dissent rippling between the lines. It was as subtle as it was undeniable ... With the intelligent, witty Li Juan as our guide, Winter Pasture becomes more than just a trip to an otherwise unknowable, far-off place full of people we’ll never meet. It’s a life-affirming declaration that the world would be terribly boring — and seem achingly small — if we all looked, worked, dressed, spoke, and dreamed the same way.