‘The High Divide,’ by Lin Enger, chosen for One Book One Valley
One Book One Valley events
• 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13 — Indian Wars lecture, Colorado Mountain College
• 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15 — Horseshoe art with Alpine Arts Center, Vail Public Library, RSVP required
• 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22 — Ute Native Americans & The History of the Slopes, Vail Public Library
• 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 8 — Book discussion, Vail Public Library
• 3:30 p.m. Friday, March 10 — Storyteller, Leon Littlebird, Vail Public Library
• 6 p.m. Thursday, March 23 — Author event, Colorado Mountain College
Visit onebookonevalley.com for more details about each of these events as they become available.
Community members and local government dignitaries slogged through a brief but ill-timed blast of snow to get to The Bookworm of Edwards on Monday night for the launch of One Book One Valley, a Community Read project.
The focal point was a long table draped with a black sheet that obscured a stack of this year’s yet-to-be-announced book selection. People scurried to take their seats as Sarah Taylor, programs manager for The Bookworm, made the opening remarks.
“This is one of our favorite things that we get to do for the community, and we are so excited to have you all here tonight,” she said before introducing Lori Barnes, town of Vail librarian and founder of the One Book One Valley initiative.
Barnes thanked all of those who had helped bring the project to fruition as a half-dozen representatives from towns across the valley filed to the front of the room to recite the official proclamation, culminating in the unveiling of this year’s book:
“The High Divide,” by Lin Enger.
Selecting a book
Enger’s novel begins when Gretta Pope awakens one morning to discover her husband is gone. It’s 1886, and Ulysses Pope has left his family behind on Minnesota’s Western prairie. Soon after, Gretta’s young sons set off to follow their father, resulting in a family divided. The story is engaging and the characters genuine, Barnes said.
“Dad leaves home and he goes for a certain reason, but the family members left behind aren’t really sure why he’s gone off,” she said. “It’s a heartwarming story, and the author is a very good writer.”
The book selection process began with representatives from The Bookworm presenting the One Book One Valley committee with a list of more than 20 titles. That list was then pared down based on criteria including literary merit, community appeal, approachable length and the author’s availability to come speak about the book.
This year, for the first time, the original trio of collaborators — Vail Public Library, The Bookworm and Colorado Mountain College — partnered with media specialists from Eagle Valley High School, Battle Mountain High School and Vail Mountain School to choose a book that would speak to high school students, as well.
“We took a lot of notes from the media specialists: This will work well for kids, this is too intense of a subject, this is too much for a ninth-grader or this one isn’t as relevant as this particular book — all those important factors that we didn’t think of,” Taylor said.
The committee wanted a book that would grab people and hold their attention, something that would inspire both formal discussion and informal chitchat, Barnes said. After hours of deliberation, “The High Divide” surfaced as the final choice.
“I think it represents the West very well,” Taylor said of the book. “It’s set in Montana, so it’s a slightly different perspective than we have here. But Lin Enger is an incredible literary writer; the way he brings a sentence to life is incredibly beautiful but simple at the same time. The picture that he paints is phenomenal. It’s going to spark something wonderful in our community.”
The American Library Association introduced the idea of the Community Read in 1998, and the association now provides a roadmap for statewide, citywide, countywide and even countrywide reading programs all over the world.
A few years ago, Barnes took notice of Community Read programs springing up in other Colorado communities and began working to bring the concept to Eagle County.
“One Book One Valley is my baby, it’s one of my pet projects,” she said. “It’s something that occurred to me when I was having envy 6 1/2 years ago: How come Denver gets to do this? And Steamboat? I didn’t want to do it with just Vail; Eagle Valley is a small community, relatively speaking, so we figured we would do it up big.”
In its sixth year, the program now includes a handful of lectures, discussions and hands-on activities that help the community connect with the chosen book. Taylor said a lot of the public events are centered on the landscape depicted in “The High Divide.”
“They highlight certain aspects that are crucial to the story in a way that takes you outside the story, that brings the story to you in a whole different way,” she said. “Part of the whole planning process of the programs was to bring the book to life, in a way, to help people interact with the book in an entirely different way.”
Books have the power to bond people together; for two strangers to connect over a story that spoke to them is something that’s hard to find in any other medium, Taylor said.
“You experience the emotions throughout the book, and to discuss that with someone else, to experience that with someone else, to have that deeper connection, is so important to a community,” she said. “It builds the community in a stronger way than you would think.”