Reviews

“ROUGH BEAUTY indeed. The passages about fire knocked my hat off. Terrifying yet lovely. Karen Auvinen is an American maverick. Vital, wild and true. 

— Luis Alberto Urrea, Author of The House of the Broken Angels 

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This beautiful and elemental book is an invitation into a life of nature and ritual. Her existence scoured to simplicity by a home-destroying fire, Karen Auvinen sinks into the seasons, watching the world turn from her isolated mountain home, battling loneliness and her own stubborn self, but through contact with the natural world–including the neighborhood bear—achieving moments of illumination and profound truth. At the center of the rituals that make up this mountain life–including walks in nature, meditation, and gourmet dinners—is a high priest named Elvis, a white husky who is tethered to Karen by devotion (and the occasional leash) and fills her days with love, teaching her that she isn’t quite the tough loner she fancies herself to be.

There are many books about seasons in the wilderness but this is one about a life in it. Henry Beston wrote:“The world to-day is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot.”  Not Karen Auvinen’s world. Rough Beauty has the power to change lives. It stands as an antidote to the brittle and the electronic, the hurried way we rush through our days.

— David Gessner, New York Times Bestselling author of All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West 

 

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Karen Auvinen had chartered a fiercely independent course through her adult life with her dog Elvis at her side. But when tragedy strikes, she is forced to navigate the world beyond the rocks and ridges of the wild Colorado mountains she calls home and accept the kindness of friends and strangers alike. Auvinen has the heart of a poet and pioneer grit, and Rough Beauty is a wrenchingly evocative memoirIt is a story of loss, but it is also a story of transformation, of finding shards of hope among the ashes and moving forward with gratitude and grace and courage.

— James Campbell, author of Braving It and The Final Frontiersman

 

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Rough Beauty shimmers with the risks and rewards of living on the edge of an unforgiving natural world which, like an angry god, wields destruction in the form of fire and flood, but also offers healing and rebirth for the strong of heart.

— Mary Clearman Blew, author of All But the Waltz and This Is Not the Ivy League.

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These outstanding autobiographical essays explore solitude, traumatic events, and a deep commitment to place. Auvinen, former Colorado artist-in-residence and two-time Academy of American Poets award recipient, charts a decade of life “ordered by weather and wildlife” on the Front Range of the Rockies. She prized her independence, funding her writing with three part-time jobs and finding companionship in her husky mix, Elvis. But when her cabin burned down, destroying all her work in progress, she had to accept help and discovered that her small town was a true community.  The turning seasons (“March was thick with anticipation—the pendulum between winter and spring”) and rhythms of small-town life form a meditative backdrop. Nature—whether gardening, camping, or close encounters with bears and a fox—speaks of wonder and solace. The author has served a long apprenticeship—sensing life’s patterns, becoming embedded in a human community, learning to give and receive love—and the result is a beautiful story of resilience perfect for readers of Terry Tempest Williams. A fine example of the hybrid nature-memoir.

—  Kirkus, Starred Review

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The fire ravaged Auvinen’s mountain cabin, leaving only a few charred remnants of her carefully crafted life behind. Rebuilding required her both to let go and to let others in, putting aside her hard-won independence to rely on the kindness of others in her tight-knit Colorado community. Her moving memoir recounts the process—from her mother’s illness through the loss of her beloved dog, Elvis, and even to a new romance—through which Auvinen comes to terms with the limits of her control and endurance. She moves into a wood cabin with a coal stove, barely knocked into livable condition from the shack it once was. Working three part-time jobs, she begins to leave the fringes of the town’s social life with a plunge into its arts scene. Along the way, she portrays the passing seasons with a keen eye and poetic admiration. In her skilled words, an encounter with a bear becomes a profound moment to treasure, and the loneliness of winter, with its anticipation of spring, is rendered both beautiful and desolate. Tender and sincere, Rough Beauty is a lovely tribute to inner strength.

— Bridget Thoreson, Booklist

 

 

Detail of Peeper Pond by Greg Marquez

 

Reviews

“ROUGH BEAUTY indeed. The passages about fire knocked my hat off. Terrifying yet lovely. Karen Auvinen is an American maverick. Vital, wild and true.

— Luis Alberto Urrea, Author of The House of the Broken Angels

_____________________________

This beautiful and elemental book is an invitation into a life of nature and ritual. Her existence scoured to simplicity by a home-destroying fire, Karen Auvinen sinks into the seasons, watching the world turn from her isolated mountain home, battling loneliness and her own stubborn self, but through contact with the natural world–including the neighborhood bear—achieving moments of illumination and profound truth. At the center of the rituals that make up this mountain life–including walks in nature, meditation, and gourmet dinners—is a high priest named Elvis, a white husky who is tethered to Karen by devotion (and the occasional leash) and fills her days with love, teaching her that she isn’t quite the tough loner she fancies herself to be.

There are many books about seasons in the wilderness but this is one about a life in it. Henry Beston wrote: “The world to-day is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot.”  Not Karen Auvinen’s world. Rough Beauty has the power to change lives. It stands as an antidote to the brittle and the electronic, the hurried way we rush through our days.”

— David Gessner, New York Times Bestselling author of All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West

 

Detail of Peeper Pond by Greg Marquez

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