By Carys Davies
Scribner, April 24, 2018
Addled by grief and dissatisfaction, thirty-five-year-old mule breeder John Cyrus Bellman takes one step and then another. With a small compass and meager provisions, he sets off into the wild frontier beyond his small farm in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, on a doomed quest prompted by reports of colossal animal bones found in Kentucky. Promising to return in two years, Bellman leaves behind his only daughter Bess to the tender mercies of his taciturn sister Julie. With only a battered wall clock, her dead mother’s gold ring, and a barnyard full of miserable animals to call her own, Bess is forced to make her way in a deceptively hostile world, tracing her father’s path with arcane maps at the local subscription library and shrinking from the attentions paid to her and her aunt by their peculiar neighbor Elmer Jackson.
Meanwhile, Bellman ventures farther into the harsh and alien landscape of the west, forging an uneasy but intimate fellowship with his guide, an American Indian boy who regards him with both suspicion and a piercing understanding. As father and daughter alike reach out into their own respective wildernesses, they find that the wilderness holds out its hands to them as well.
“West has all the stark power and immediacy of a folk-tale or a legend. It is also structured with great artistry, a beguiling sense of form and pace, and a depth in the way the characters are created, making clear that Carys Davies is a writer of immense talent.” —Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn and House of Names
"Menace and mordant wit are the blood that runs through these veins, but there's a pulse of wonder in Carys Davies' West. She sees the world and its inhabitants both as we hope they are and as we fear that they might be. An audacious and enigmatic debut of thrilling dimensions, and a reminder of fiction's possibilities.”— Akhil Sharma, author of Family Life and A Life of Adventure and Delight
"A story of determination, betrayal, folly, and reckless hope written in the grand tradition of the pioneers. You enter the familiar American frontier and shortly are convinced, with Davies’ hero, that the mammoths of the Pleistocene still shyly roam the Plains. The seams between imagination and history in this extraordinary story are invisible. I believed every word.” —Salvatore Scibona, author of The End
“West is a journey and a wonder. A man leaves what he loves and goes west in search of the amazing. A story concerned with value and language, love and absence, life and death. A debut of real distinction.” —Bernard MacLaverty, author of Midwinter Break and Cal
About the Author
Carys Davies is the author of a novel, West, and two collections of short stories, Some New Ambush and The Redemption of Galen Pike, which won the 2015 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and the 2015 Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize. She is also the recipient of the Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Prize, the Society of Authors’ Olive Cook Short Story Award and a Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library. Born in Wales, she lives in Lancaster in northwest England.