Book reviews: New books herald author visits | SteamboatToday.com

Book reviews: New books herald author visits

Jenny Lay/For Explore Steamboat

‘The Blue Hour,’ by Laura Pritchett

During a Valentine's week laden with romantic undertones, Laura Pritchett busts out with a spicy new novel that twists and turns love in every imaginable manifestation. "The Blue Hour" immerses readers in a remote mountain town built upon wild places and untamed minds. Following in the venerable footsteps of the late Kent Haruf, Pritchett harnesses her infinite capacity to capture the rich, authentic essence of Colorado — both the stunning landscape and its complicated people. In "The Blue Hour" she stirs things up with a tantalizing dose of sex, too.

Pritchett brings deep honesty and reverent appreciation to rural life. Her Blue Moon Mountain is not a glamorous ski town with pretention and convenience. This is Colorado's remote periphery — one of the isolated communities that survives at high altitude on its neighborly reliance and personal scrappiness.

Her characters reflect both beauty and human damage. Their interconnected stories, told from so many distinct viewpoints, touch upon lust, tenderness and violence. They explore loneliness and togetherness, love and death and what community means. Her characters find solace in carnal desire, entangling alliances and connections both deep and frivolous. Nature is ever-present. One of the more meaningful synapses clicks into place during an encounter with a wild bear.

"The Blue Hour" wriggles us inside the lives of real people who span the small-town spectrum, from mom to meth addict. Pritchett plays with love and lust, their blurring and distinction and the distinct needs that are satisfied by each. She shakes up what's safe and what feeds the soul. The unfolding story is raw and deeply observant. As she conveys early in the novel, "Love most often dies by ice and not fire."

Pritchett will talk about "The Blue Hour" at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20 at Bud Werner Memorial Library in Library Hall.

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‘The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative,’ by Florence Williams

The world needs nature more than ever, and in “The Nature Fix,” investigative journalist Florence Williams looks at the science that proves this is so. Offering an antidote to nature-deficit disorder, Williams skips the woo-woo and goes deep into the emerging field of hard facts about how brains, bodies and whole societies function better when we take time to immerse ourselves in nature.

Following the vein of popular science writer Mary Roach, Williams immerses her own body in various scientific studies. She hits the trail in Moab with neuroscientists, measures her blood pressure drop during "forest bathing" in Japan and Korea and sees the "inverse-PTSD effects of awe" on a group of women veterans while running Idaho's Salmon River rapids. Science is proving repeatedly that nature's restorative and regenerative effects are real.

"Nature, it turns out, is good for civilization," she writes. Williams' deeply reported anecdotes prove just how interesting it is to geek out on nature's effects. It's not magic — it's actually altering something chemical, physical and neurological in our bodies. Her engaging writing makes you want to know more.

A world with more connection and less anxiety? Yes, please.

Cities and countries see the facts and buy into nature-connected solutions. Let's follow their examples.

Williams' quirky photos sprinkled throughout "The Nature Fix" add a delightful dose of humor to her clear, smart voice. Reading this book with a highlighter left my copy marked with copious self-help messages, reaffirming why I live close to wilderness and why I should walk away from my desk more often. She reminds me, "We think of nature as a luxury, not a necessity. We don't recognize how much it elevates us, both personally and politically."

Nature — our survival depends upon it. Thanks to Williams for further illuminating a gut sense that most Steamboat folks already suspected was true.

Get out in the wintery forest, then hear Williams talk about "The Nature Fix" at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 2 in Library Hall.

These books are available at the Bud Werner Memorial Library and Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.

Jennie Lay is adult programs coordinator at Bud Werner Memorial Library.

If you go

What: Laura Pritchett, “The Blue Hour”

When: 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20

Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library Library Hall, 1289 Lincoln Ave.

What: Florence Williams, “The Nature Fix”

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 2

Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library Library Hall, 1289 Lincoln Ave.

More information: steamboatlibrary.org/events