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“Come West and See”

“Come West and See” by Maxim Loskutoff

“Come West and See” by Maxim Loskutoff

Maxim Loskutoff’s compelling short story collection, “Come West and See” is both an invitation and a warning. The stories examine the struggles and desire of young men to control their environment, women, politics, and ultimately their future.

Loosely based on the real 2016 standoff at the Bundy Occupation in Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, “Come West and See,” a finalist in the High Plains Book Awards Short Story category, is made up of linked stories set in isolated regions of Montana and Idaho, refuges for armed survivalists, radical libertarians, and religious separatists.

The first story, “The Dancing Bear,” set in the Montana Territories, 1893, serves as a prelude to the contemporary stories that follow. It clearly foreshadows themes of solitude; control, or lack thereof; violence; and sexuality. The recurring metaphor is clear and sadly all-too familiar: young white men desperately trying to control everything around them and destroying it in the process. Aware of an unjust social structure, they are unable to put their anger and personal failures into any sort of action that could save them or help them find a place in life in the modern West.

These stories address how segregated life in America has become, fragile male egos unsure of their own abilities yet possessing a clear sense of right and entitlement, and guns.

Throughout the collection, Maxim writes about a wild, aggressive, yet lonely, environment, much different from city life. It is curious how tenderly Loskutoff writes about his characters, vivid in their convictions, dreams and regrets. He is a subtle but masterful creator of character and story.

Most of the characters in these stories are less than admirable, trustworthy or noble, yet Loskutoff masterfully paints their angst, and readers will recognize them all.

Corby Skinner is the director of The Writer’s Voice and the High Plains BookFest.

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