The Willow Field
The novel tells the life story of Rossie Benasco, from the age of fifteen until he becomes an older man and a grandfather. Covering most of the 20th century, it begins as Rossie is working on a ranch. He becomes involved in his first love affair and is soon invited to drive a herd of horses from Nevada to Calgary. After he arrives in Canada, he meets a young woman named Eliza, impregnated by an incarcerated Indian, and falls in love. Rossie follows Eliza to her home in Montana, where he discovers that her family is rich (during the Depression years of the 1930s) and befriends her parents; eventually they marry.
The author ably depicts the beauty of the country: his choice of prose enabled me to drink in his descriptions of the landscape. His characters added just the right amount of spark to the novel’s beginning, especially the interplay between Rossie and Eliza. They came from two different worlds, their continual bantering adding elements of suspense and humor. As the book progressed, I wondered how their marriage could survive.
My only reservation was the final third of the book, as I began to lose interest in the characters and their life. The novel moved much too quickly through the 1940s and ´50s. There seemed to be little real tension or conflict between the characters, other than normal problems that we all face as we age.
Kittredge is a very talented writer. His novel reads like a literary essay about a quiet young man who tries to exist in a world alien to his upbringing – sometimes succeeding, but many times failing in his attempts to survive and prosper.