The Forest and the Trees: Come West and See by Maxim Loskutoff

Katie Sticca
| Reviews

Early on, the Redoubters are media curiosities, gaining respect from their neighbors and apathy from the rest of the country. As time goes on and the federal government is unable to contain their uprising, the Redoubt spreads in land mass and in followers, but the conflict fades into the background of everyday life for the rest of the country.

The Redoubt pops up in tertiary moments of several stories, quietly showing a subtle progression in the violence and intensity of the insurgency. In “Ways to Kill a Tree,” a young, bored wife kills time “reading about the dead idiot protesters in Oregon,” and in “Stay Here,” a man notes about his girlfriend that “reading about the worsening violence in the West would leave her silent for hours.” But, as the chronically unlucky narrator in “Too Much Love” notes, “So long as the violence didn’t spill over into Sun Valley or Phoenix, the people on the coasts wouldn’t care. This rough strip of land could burn without even interrupting their vacations.”

It is only in the latter portion of the book that the Redoubt becomes the center of attention, as the conflict eventually escalates to a full-on civil war. Those on the sidelines struggle to decide whether to join in the fight, either out of unity or boredom. In “Umpqua,” a listless, angry young man whose friend has just been gunned down by the government thinks: “I tried to imagine what it would be like to join up. Squatting in a tent under the butte, listening to the FBI drones overhead. Eating camp rations. At least I’d be doing something.” The loner in “Too Much Love” joins up with the Redoubt at the losing end of their battle, hoping that a martyr’s death will have made his difficult life worthwhile:

         I’m sorry, Mom, that I turned out so poor. Maybe Arn was right, if I’d
         stood for something… or maybe now if Jess saw my flag-draped coffin
         on the news. Would she love me then?... I looked at Arn, still glaring at
         the line of bedraggled men along the road in the darkness, and I
         almost laughed. I’d never once picked a winning team. There was no
         reason to think I’d start now.


Katie Sticca is the managing editor of Salamander. She received her MFA from Emerson College, and lives in Boston.

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