Everett is one of my favorite writers: consistently challenging, engaging in a range of diverse styles and storylines. He almost always seems to be writing about characters with contrary desires for isolation and also for connection, about the way we're forced to take action and make ethical choices -- and, with a tough-minded rigor, he reveals unsettling and complicated ambiguities every step of the way.
This is, in a way, one of his "Westerns"--novels set in some version of the brutal frontier, told in a prose and structure simpler and maybe more lyrical than other of his works. (Certainly they're more likely to explore the environment. And there's some lovely work here with horses. I don't know a damn thing about horses, but I read Everett and Tom McGuane and know full well why--and a little bit about how--you'd spend your days with the creatures.)
The protagonist here--John Hunt--trains horses, lives with his ex-con uncle Gus, grapples with a bubbling up of bigotries old and new in Wyoming farmland. But I think the heart of the book is not really with the reiteration of the problems of human hate, with the threat--or thrill--of violence and revenge. (The problem of violence is almost a given, the necessary context and environment for Everett's characters. Not mythologized, not romanticized, not even deeply Meaningful in that Cormac-McCarthy manner.) Instead, the problems most demanding--of John Hunt and of us readers--emphasize the uncertainties of trying to love one another.
Which makes it sound all soft mush, and I picture Gus (or Everett) sneering and tossing off a cheap gag. There's a scene in a cave, where the hero (a word worth using here) seeks to save someone. The rescue ends with a kiss, and the book ends with a showdown (of sorts), but Everett's heroes lack any certainty, and Hunt's confusion--about the nature of his own desire, about the burdens imposed when we care for someone--is never resolved. But it lingers.