Book review: Badluck Way, by Bryce Andrews

Badluck Way:

A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West

Badluck Way

Badluck Way
Bryce Andrews
Publisher: Atria Books
Pub. Date: 12/3/2013 and 1/7/2014
ISBN: 978-1476710853
Received from the author
through Netgalley


Buy Link

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this ebook for free
from the author
through Netgalley
in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post,
and the thoughts are my own.

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

         New Authors 2013     where are you reading


Rating system

When I saw the ad for this ebook on Netgalley, I requested it, as it was about wildlife and was set in Montana, a state I still needed to cover for my US challenge. And now I see Atria is preparing to publish it, so looks like it’s doing well. I’m glad, as it really deserves success.

After a heartbreak and a succession of meaningless small jobs, Bryce decides to spend some time as a ranch hand at Sun Ranch, in the high country of South West Montana, over the border  from Yellowstone.
Though a city kid, he had always been fascinated by the West since he visited a ranch at age 7, and went back to it every summer for 10 years.
The book consists in describing his daily life on the ranch in the company of the ranch manager and other employees. Believe me, it’s much more fascinating than it would seem at first sight: I learned a lot about how to care for the cattle amid many predators, with the need even sometimes to spend the night outdoors near the cows!, about the necessary job on fences, on how to provide for water for the animals, etc.

But Badluck Way (name of the gravel track leading to Sun Ranch) is first of all about transformation and complications. In his daily struggle to protect the cattle, especially against wolves, Bryce will be led to do something that will change him for ever.

The style is breathtaking, with awesome descriptions of colors in nature, of the mountains, the sky, the constant wind, the land, and the wild, and of man in it, with real feelings of awe, that is, fascination and fear.
There are lots of animals around. Apart from cows and horses, I noted: bear (grizzly), mountain lions, wolves, deer, jackrabbits, elk, antelope, moose, sheep, coyotes, badgers, and as for birds: hawks, eagles and blue grouse.
Many chapters end with a special section focusing on the central drama between man and wolf, narratives sometimes coming from the perspective of the wolf itself, if I understood correctly.

There is also a lot on the topic of nature management and conservatism –did you know wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995? Tough when your cattle ranch is just next door… And on what these areas may be in danger of becoming if the farmers face the need to sell them…

If you care for nature and beauty, I highly recommend you to read the book. But be aware there are also some gruesome graphic descriptions of animals killed by wolves.


The ranch was at the vanguard of a movement to rethink the way agriculture is practiced in the West.

When a person works long enough on a ranch, he comes to suspect that most of the living things that walk or grow on the hills and pastures are either with or against him.

James and Jeremy understood ranching as the art of protecting one’s chosen creatures in a brutal world.


Mine might have been a simple, pretty story, if not for the wolves. In late July, they emerged from the foothills . . .

In this gripping memoir of a young man, a wolf, their parallel lives and ultimate collision, Bryce Andrews describes life on the remote, windswept Sun Ranch in southwest Montana. The Sun’s twenty thousand acres of rangeland occupy a still-wild corner of southwest Montana—a high valley surrounded by mountain ranges and steep creeks with portentous names like Grizzly, Dead Man, and Bad Luck. Just over the border from Yellowstone National Park, the Sun holds giant herds of cattle and elk amid many predators—bears, mountain lions, and wolves. In lyrical, haunting language, Andrews recounts marathon days and nights of building fences, riding, roping, and otherwise learning the hard business of caring for cattle, an initiation that changes him from an idealistic city kid into a skilled ranch hand. But when wolves suddenly begin killing the ranch’s cattle, Andrews has to shoulder a rifle, chase the pack, and do what he’d hoped he would never have to do.

Badluck Way is about transformation and complications, about living with dirty hands every day. It is about the hard choices that wake us at night and take a lifetime to reconcile. Above all, Badluck Way celebrates the breathtaking beauty of wilderness and the satisfaction of hard work on some of the harshest, most beautiful land in the world. Called “an important meditation on what it means to share space and breathe the same air as truly wild animals” (Tom Groneberg, author of The Secret Life of Cowboys), Badluck Way is the memorable story of one young man’s rebirth in the crucible of the West’s timeless landscape, a place at the center of the heart’s geography, savage and gorgeous in equal measure. [Goodreads]



Bryce Andrews

Bryce Andrews writes from southwest Montana,
where he manages a conservation-oriented cattle ranch.
He has appeared on Montana Public Radio and PBS
and his essays and short work have been published in High Country News,
Big Sky Journal, Camas Magazine, and Backpacker.
[on Simon & Schuster site]




4 thoughts on “Book review: Badluck Way, by Bryce Andrews

  1. Pingback: New Authors Reading Challenge 2013 | Words And Peace

  2. Pingback: Reading the States 2013 Reading Challenge | Words And Peace

  3. Pingback: 2013 Ebook Reading Challenge | Words And Peace

  4. Pingback: Reading the States 2015 Reading Challenge | Words And Peace

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