Sherry Leonard will be at Oregon Books signing and talking about her book, Atacama.
Gerritt Wells, a young mining engineer with relationship issues and a fear of crowding, escapes from Montana to the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, to work in an open-pit copper mine. The stark land itself is part of his story. The huge open-pit copper mine employs both Gringos and Chilenos, creating unrest. Gerritt marries the sensual retarded daughter of the mine manager to get ahead. There are problems with the Union, a mine strike, an explosion in the mine, and growing tensions between Gerritt and others. The benches in the open pit, begun early in the century, were built too steeply and part of the mine eventually collapses. The coming failure, a thunderous waterfall of rock, mirrors Gerritt’s descent into self promotion and dependence on unreliable things. Disappointment powers his desire to keep the mine running after the collapse. He destroys himself driving a dozer out onto the slide to fix it.