Tolstoy suggested that words are weapons in any fight to change the minds of the masses. Words can also move the heart and draw our attention to the forgotten sublime. Julene Bair’s new book, THE OGALLALA ROAD: A MEMOIR OF LOVE AND RECKONING, proves this truth. Her first book, One Degree West, which won regional awards and was a finalist for the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, began her inquiry into how we are shaped by our childhood landscape. Ogallala Road continues her personal story and reveals some larger truths about ecological degradation unfolding across the nation.
In her new book, Bair writes beautifully and compellingly about her passion for the high plains of Kansas, her concerns about our diminishing water resources, and her search for love and identity. Although she no longer lives on the family farm, each trip back she sees the alarming effects of big agriculture and individual greed—government subsidies and ethanol policies that encourage irrigation of crops such as soybeans and corn and, in the process, are depleting a precious, essential aquifer.
This is a story of family, romantic love, memory, and loss. About how Bair—and all of us—struggle to make things “come out right,” but often must settle for a reimagined future as the fullness of life is revealed. It’s a tale of America’s wild beauty and rich natural resources, and an exploration of what humans are engraving on their potential. Bair does not spare herself in the telling—she shares her own conflicts of spirit, her longing for family approval and meaningful connections. Her honest, straightforward presentation is one of the book’s great appeals.
Bair has written editorials on the Ogallala Aquifer, most notably in USA Today and the New York Times, and is available to speak on the topic. Author’s website