Holding Fire: A Reckoning with the American West (Hardcover)
“Beautifully observed. . . This jewel of a book belongs on the shelf with our best Western writers—Norman MacLean, Pam Houston, and Annie Proulx.”—John Vaillant, bestselling author of The Tiger and The Golden Spruce
From the award-winning author of Down from the Mountain, a memoir of inheritance, history, and one gun’s role in the violence that shaped the American West—and an impassioned call to forge a new way forward
Bryce Andrews was raised to do no harm. The son of a pacifist and conscientious objector, he moved from Seattle to Montana to tend livestock and the land as a cowboy. For a decade, he was happy. Yet, when Andrews inherited his grandfather’s Smith & Wesson revolver, he felt the weight of the violence braided into his chosen life. Other white men who’d come before him had turned firearms like this one against wildlife, wilderness, and the Indigenous peoples who had lived in these landscapes for millennia. This was how the West was “won.” Now, the losses were all around him and a weapon was in his hand.
In precise, elegiac prose, Andrews chronicles his journey to forge a new path for himself, and to reshape one handgun into a tool for good work. As waves of gun violence swept the country and wildfires burned across his beloved valley, he began asking questions—of ranchers, his Native neighbors, his family, and a blacksmith who taught him to shape steel—in search of a new way to live with the land and with one another. In laying down his arms, he transformed an inherited weapon, his ranch, and the arc of his life.
Holding Fire is a deeply felt memoir of one Western heart’s wild growth, and a personal testament to how things that seem permanent—inheritance, legacies of violence, forged steel—can change.
Bryce Andrews is the author of Down from the Mountain, which won the Banff Mountain Book Competition and was a Montana Book Award Honor Title and an Amazon Best Science Title of 2019. His first book was Badluck Way, which won the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, the Reading the West Book Award for nonfiction, and the High Plains Book Award for both nonfiction and debut book. Andrews grew up in Seattle, Washington, and spent a decade working on ranches in the high valleys of Montana. He lives near Missoula with his family.
“Very appealing…[Andrews] can write beautifully… Andrews describes the weapon, a Smith & Wesson revolver, almost lovingly. Its craftsmanship, intricate reliability and directness of purpose engaged his artistic sense.” — Washington Post
“In this beautifully observed book, Bryce Andrews takes us on a courageous and necessary journey toward reconciliation that is as visceral as it is transcendent. The West and its varied inhabitants come alive with every shining line and, when I was done, I found myself wishing for the world that Andrews and his family are daily working toward. This jewel of a book belongs on the shelf with our best Western writers - Norman MacLean, Pam Houston, and Annie Proulx.” — John Vaillant, bestselling author of The Tiger and The Golden Spruce
“A powerful meditation on a rural life of hunting in a world of guns—some of them used for sinister purposes… A welcome, eminently sensible contribution to the literature of the American West—and responsible gun ownership.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Bryce Andrews’ vibrant, candid account of working as a cowboy in Montana provides a moving meditation on the fragility of life and inevitability of death… As Andrews ruminates on his personal history, he dots his musings with descriptive, emotive prose. Holding Fire is a meditation on the past, present and future of not only Andrews’ own life but also the lives of all mortal creatures.” — BookPage
“Regardless of one’s stance on guns, Andrews offers insightful reflections on their role in the history of the West.”
“Andrews’s heartfelt reflection on the American West confronts one of the region’s essential paradoxes: that a place defined by innovation and beauty also has a legacy of horrible violence. For the author, the catalyst is inheriting his grandfather’s Smith & Wesson handgun, which carries its own awful history. From his ranch in Montana, Andrews turns to neighbors and family as he seeks a new way to live in the West.” — Alta
“An astonishing call to attention. Bryce Andrews' story corrals despair and offers understanding, douses anxiety and offers wonder. This isn’t mere memoir, Holding Fire is a song to the West, a talisman of ferocious beauty for a world on edge. Compelling and compassionate, a must read for all who seek peace in uncertain times.” — Debra Magpie Earling, award-winning author of Perma Red
“Bryce Andrews writes gorgeously of what lies underneath the idealized glamour of the American West. In a voice that is honest and humorous and introspective, he explodes the fetishization of the rugged individual and interrogates the hard realities of what Western gun culture boils down to: killing, with guns designed to bring food and mercy, and with guns designed for killing people. How do we live together in this landscape knowing the horrible things we've done to others, and to each other? That is only one of the many questions Andrews asks himself in Holding Fire, and we are fortunate to experience his struggle to find answers.” — Chris La Tray, author of One-Sentence Journal