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Far Enough: A Western in Fragments

Publication Date: May 2015


♦2016 Winner of the High Plains Book Award for Short Stories

Though Joe Wilkins’s new collection of short fiction set under the big Montana sky may have all the trappings of a traditional Western-long shots of sage flats and blue mountains, late nights at the dingy local watering hole, and a hard-working cowboy making time with the boss’s daughter-Far Enough is far from traditional. A series of short prose fragments told from several viewpoints, Far Enough follows Willie Benson, Wade Newman, and young Jackie Newman as they crisscross the high plains of eastern Montana, each searching for something to hold onto. Wilkins’s narratives-splintered, wending, intertwined-sprawl out beneath a huge, dazzling sky filled with “blue lightning run the wrong way, red eruptions and the slow fade to gold, a white ache along the horizon.” Poetic, darkly humorous, subversive-Far Enough is a Western for our time.


Willie Benson rode north. He found a section of the fence down and all afternoon followed a dry creek toward the mountains. Early December, biting cold. The wind coming at him in curves and circles. Yet the sun was brilliant with the sky. He rode and watched the shadows of sage and greasewood slide east, begin to stretch and twist. Ahead, farther north, the Snowy Mountains went blue-black, a shade darker than the darkening sky. As the sun disappeared, Willie studied the up-sloping land, the black rocks and the pines. He realized Great Falls must be just over these mountains, though for the shadows and the wind, he wasn’t sure how close he was, just how far he’d come. He knew he’d come a long ways, but he didn’t know how far was far enough. The cold was dark and hard. He thought about the old wood stove in corner of the Ryegate Bar. He tried to shake the pain from his hand. It didn’t leave. There was just wind, a seam of scar, then bone.


Equal parts rocketing narrative and arresting imagery, Far Enough trains a grave attention on the longings and flaws of ranch people, and the injustices they inflict and suffer. In these fiercely-charged “fragments” Joe Wilkins distills small-town, Big-Sky culture into a brilliant, austere, yet addictive liquor.

-Anna Keesey, author of Little Century

Joe Wilkins’ portrait of the modern American West is told via one-page dramatic tableaux that read like those suddenly captured moments in poetry, in language as simple and unadorned in its beauty as the Montana prairie. These men and women are laconic and unassuming in their wants, fears, desires, and Wilkins reveals them to us wholly, unsparingly, vividly. The vision here is clear-eyed and humane. If Chekhov were born in Billings instead of Taganrog, he might very well have written about people like this, just as Wilkins has.

-Daniel Orozco, author of Orientation: And Other Stories

When I’m asked what an ideal story for our magazine would be, I think but don’t say: like a Joe Wilkins story. Far Enough is tight, chiseled and beautiful, full of language so physical it seems like landscape itself. You can feel the West in these words. But you can feel the people too, their stories equal to the place. I love Joe Wilkins’s stories. I always have.

-David Gessner, Editor-in-Chief at Ecotone

About the Author

Joe Wilkins

Joe Wilkins’s debut, Killing the Murnion Dogs, was published by Black Lawrence in 2011 and subsequently named a finalist for a number of national post-publication book awards, including the Paterson Poetry Prize and the High Plains Book Award. Wilkins’s other books include a memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers (Counterpoint 2012), winner of a 2014 GLCA New Writers Award—an honor that has previously recognized early works by the likes of Richard Ford, Louise Erdrich, and Alice Munro, among others—and another book of poems, Notes from the Journey Westward (White Pine 2012). He has recently published two chapbooks, one of essays, We Had to Go On Living(Red Bird Chapbooks 2014) and one of poetry, Leviathan (Iron Horse 2014); his fiction chapbook Far Enough: A Western in Fragments was published by Black Lawrence Press last year. A Pushcart Prize winner and National Magazine Award finalist, Wilkins has published poems, essays, and stories inThe Georgia Review, The Southern Review, The Missouri Review, The Sun, Orion, and Slate. Of Wilkins’s work, Deborah Kim, editor at the Indiana Review, writes, “The most striking component of it is its awareness of ‘the whole world.’ What is ordinary becomes transcendent. In places derelict and seemingly unexceptional, Wilkins compels us to recognize what is worth salvage, worth praise.” Wilkins lives with his wife, son, and daughter in McMinnville, Oregon, where he teaches writing at Linfield College. As the winner of the Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency from PEN Northwest, he and his family spent the summer and fall of 2015 living in a remote cabin along the Rogue River in southwest Oregon.

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