Under Cottonwoods: A Novel of Friendship, Fly Fishing, and Redemption (Hardcover)
Under Cottonwoods is a lyrical novel of two Wyoming friends who are drawn together by their love of fly fishing and the outdoors. Walter is a handsome young man whose face and brain are scarred as a result of a climbing accident that has left him partially paralyzed and mentally diminished. Mike, who lost both of his parents when he was a young teen, is in his own way as handicapped as Walter. Mike seems at first to be the stronger, admirably and compassionately lending a hand to an unfortunate friend, but it's soon clear that each is giving the other something priceless: the insight and courage to challenge the odds, embrace reality, and find a way to flourish and grow. Through quiet times on pristine streams, dangerous times on angry rivers, and through blizzards, harassment in the local nightclub, the pains of opportunities lost, and the daily grind of a life of diminished expectations, Walter and Mike grow stronger as their friendship deepens. With Mike's help, Walter is able to reestablish a bond with his father and dare to chance romance, while Mike, with Walter's constant encouragement and astute observations, is able to make peace with his wife and get on with his life.
There is life after tragedy. Under Cottonwoods, Stephen Grace's exploration of that life, is a perfect blend of humor and compassion rare in a first-or any-contemporary novel. The story is laced with superb characterizations: Mitch, whose twenty years in state institutions taught him only the value of "safety first" and loyalty; Donna, Walter's true love, who has the wisdom to accept herself as she is; Nancy, a social worker whose concern for the safety of her charges often ensures their frustration and unhappiness; and Nora, Mike's wife, who remains a distant but pervasive presence throughout the narrative.
I read Under Cottonwoods with my thirteen year old son and we both loved it--he for the fishing action, I for the novel's flawed, searching, and wholly sympathetic characters. Stephen Grace has crafted a humane and hopeful story that will engage both nature lovers and champions of the human spirit.--Wally Lamb, author of She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True.
"With strong big-hearted prose, Stephen Grace charts the mysterious waters of an unlikely friendship between two damaged and yet optimistic men who lean, carry and challenge each other to heal and forgive. Under Cottonwoods is that rare novel that manages to be both generous and wise without condescension or syrupy sermons."--Elwood Reid, author of If I Don't Six
"This is an amazing first book by a gifted writer. Mr. Grace is a born storyteller. Under Cottonwoods is inspiring without being maudlin, exciting but not contrived. Wilderness areas are beautifully described in well drawn prose other writers may envy." --Midwest Book Review