Winner of the 2021 High Plains Book Award in Fiction and the 2021 Montana Innovation Award
In this haunting parable of the American West, a young woman faces the violent past of her remote Montana valley.
As a child in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, Ruthie Fear sees an apparition: a strange, headless creature near a canyon creek. Its presence haunts her throughout her youth. Raised in a trailer by her stubborn, bowhunting father, Ruthie develops a powerful connection with the natural world but struggles to find her place in a society shaped by men. Development, gun violence, and her father’s vendettas threaten her mountain home. As she comes of age, her small community begins to fracture in the face of class tension and encroaching natural disaster, and the creature she saw long ago reappears as a portent of the valley’s final reckoning.
An entirely new kind of western and the first novel from one of this generation’s most wildly imaginative writers, Ruthie Fear captures the destruction and rebirth of the modern American West with warmth, urgency, and grandeur. The Technicolor bursts of action that test Ruthie’s commitment to the valley and its people invite us to look closer at our nation’s complicated legacy of manifest destiny, mass shootings, and environmental destruction. Anchored by its unforgettable heroine, Ruthie Fear presents the rural West as a place balanced on a knife-edge, at war with itself, but still unbearably beautiful and full of love.
About the Author
Maxim Loskutoff is the critically acclaimed author of the story collection Come West and See. His stories and essays have appeared in numerous periodicals, including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Ploughshares, and the Southern Review. He lives in western Montana.
Ruthie’s lawlessness makes her an acute observer of contradictions within herself and in the community, and Loskutoff uses tropes of the Western—vivid depictions of mountain landscapes and hunting scenes—to offer a subtle portrayal of poverty and class warfare.
— New Yorker
Loskutoff depicts the casual brutality of Ruthie’s coming-of-age, as well as its wild, precarious wonders. His characters are wholly believable, reluctantly adapting to "the massive forces shifting around them".
— Sam Sacks - Wall Street Journal
Like the exemplars of Western fiction Cormac McCarthy and Wallace Stegner, Loskutoff grants his landscape the agency and complexity of a main character.
— Regina Marler - New York Review of Books
Loskutoff reimagines the conventional bleak and brawny novel of the Western mountains, mixing magic and realism in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, and introduces a strangely beguiling Ruthie Fear.
— National Book Review
Loskutoff hones and deepens the unique skill he showcased in his debut…a capacity for human complexity, the talent to hold beauty and ugliness at once.
— Yardenne Greenspan - Ploughshares
A powerful story about the disenfranchised…Loskutoff neither divides his characters into villains and victims nor presents them as objects of condescension or condemnation.
— Donna Henderson - Harvard Review
[A]stonishing ... a magnificent novel.
— Sarah Rachel Egelman - Bookreporter
On the surface, Ruthie Fear is a coming-of-age story that explores poverty, violence and death. But below that surface lies an examination of the shifting demographics of western Montana, where a largely white, working-class community is being displaced…even as their own world slowly implodes from poverty and climate change—and supernatural forces.
— Gabino Iglesias - High Country News
An original and shape-shifting western parable. A book full of earnest, proud, damaged, and endearing characters, each one chasing their own American Dream. Maxim Loskutoff’s writing is endowed with fearless audacity, stunning grace, and gutsy heart.
— Nickolas Butler, author of Shotgun Lovesongs
Loskutoff captures the vast and lonely land along with its beauty with breathtaking descriptions of violence and empathy, and ends with a shocking and poignant surprise. With its humor and heart, Loskutoff’s harrowing tale offers a heroine to root for. This one hits hard.
— Publishers Weekly (starred and featured review)
Maxim Loskutoff takes the real world, the gritty realism of western mountain poverty and class warfare, and turns them inside out, infusing them with the wonderfully strange. The ancient mountain wilderness becomes a violent ecotone between two worlds that cannot coexist, and we see the inevitable catastrophic clash through the eyes of a fascinating new young hero in American fiction.
— Brad Watson, author of Miss Jane
A brilliant, gritty, and poetic novel. In Ruthie Fear, Maxim Loskutoff explores the ongoing exploitation and destruction of the natural beauty and wildlife of the American West with one of the most vivid, honest, and heartbreaking characters to appear in fiction in the last few years.
— Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff
Ruthie Fear yanks you into its urgent world, where wildness is an endangered species and wilderness is being fenced off and paved over. Maxim Loskutoff’s debut novel walks a line between the dirt and bone of the earth and the hazy nightmares of myths. Written with love and precision, this book will cling to you long after the last page.
— James Scott, author of The Kept
Meet Ruthie Fear. Once you know her, you’ll never forget her. Maxim Loskutoff maps Ruthie’s Bitterroot Valley with clarity, wisdom, and tenderness, tracking the shifting relationships between those who originally inhabited the land and those who have colonized it, those who hunt and those who are hunted. This novel will seize you by the throat from its very first pages and leave you gasping for air by its end.
— Julia Phillips, author of Disappearing Earth
Maxim Loskutoff writes the various violences of the contemporary American West (development, extraction, racism, misogyny, and guns, guns, guns) unapologetically, unromantically, and with a razor-sharp clarity that’s like a punch to the gut. The novel not so much centers around as conjures itself out of the fierce, tender wolf cub of a girl at its center who receives, exposes, incorporates, and transmogrifies that violence. I want Ruthie Fear on my side as we descend into whatever comes next.
— Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness
A ferocious, unsettling, raging storm of a novel that captures not only a place of hauntings and heartbreaks but also a world on the precipice. This is a symphony on fire, a call for us to be better—a beautiful, glimmering song.
— Paul Yoon, author of Snow Hunters
The mundane and the extraordinary converge in this novel of one Montana woman’s life. … With resonant characters and a great sense of place, this novel rarely goes where you’d expect, and is stronger for it.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)