Skip to main content
  1. Arts & Entertainment
  2. Books

Book review: 'Montana' by Gwen Florio

See also

Gwen Florio's 'Montana'

Rating:
Star4
Star
Star
Star
Star

Today, Hartford Books Examiner reviews Montana (The Permanent Press, $28.00) by Gwen Florio.

Published last October, Montana marks Florio’s debut novel (to be followed by Dakota later this year), though the author is no stranger to the written word. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and, as a veteran journalist, her reporting has been nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize. In addition to domestic assignments, Florio has reported from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia—experiences that vividly color her creative canvas.

Montana introduces protagonist Lola Wicks, who has been downgraded from her post as foreign correspondent in Kabul to suburban beat reporter stateside. Infuriated by this perceived demotion, Lola faces further indignity when her editor demands that she take vacation and re-acclimate to home soil. Without an alternative, Lola makes plans to visit colleague and friend Mary Alice Carr at her Montana cabin. Mary Alice is conspicuously absent upon Lola’s arrival, and Lola later discovers her body in an overlook outside the home, the victim of a gunshot wound to the head.

As if the circumstances aren’t bad enough, Lola’s plan to return to Afghanistan is thwarted when she is told that she cannot leave the area due to the ensuing investigation. Given her rusty social skills, Lola’s rapport with the locals—including a wealthy rancher, a novice sheriff, a controversial gubernatorial candidate, and a fellow reporter—is tenuous at best. After all, this is a woman who prefers a sleeping bag to a bed (and coffee to food), secretes rolls of cash on her body, and has no appreciation for the art of small talk. This sense of physical and emotional isolation only exacerbates her vulnerabilities.

With nothing but time on her hands (and a dog and a horse to tend to), Lola decides to independently pursue answers to the nagging questions surrounding her friend’s death, despite warnings to the contrary. Not only she become exposed to the venomous atmosphere of local politics—a plight that Mary Alice was intimately familiar with—but it renders Lola an unwitting target of enemy (or enemies) unknown. Desperate forces are at work to keep certain truths from being revealed at all costs, and Lola’s curiosity may prove to be her downfall.

Florio delivers a competent and well-plotted mystery that will satisfy genre readers, but it’s her portrayal of Lola as a stranger readjusting to life in her own country that truly sets this story apart. As aloof as the character can be, there is redemption in her battered-yet-triumphant sense of humanity. Complexities are indicative of life, both on and beyond the page, and, ultimately, that’s what makes this book relatable. Montana is an accomplished debut from an author to watch …

Advertisement

Arts & Entertainment

  • Jack White
    Reddit users have fun with Jack White's unhappy face at a Cubs game
    Headlines
  • Fifty Shades of Grey
    The first 'Fifty Shades of Grey' trailer has been released, leaving fans wanting more
    Video
    Movies Buzz
  • Big Bang Theory
    Will CBS be able to ink a deal with the cast of 'The Big Bang Theory' before shooting begins?
    Camera
    12 Photos
  • Hercules
    Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson brings fun, adventure, and heart as 'Hercules'
    Camera
    5 Photos
  • Shermar Moore
    Daytime television is about to get a lot hotter with Shemar Moore back on the screen
    Camera
    11 Photos
  • Adele
    Adele's infant son has won a substantial amount of money in a paparazzo lawsuit
    Video
    Today's Buzz