The Cut of Pride $16.95
Jeff Baker should have kept going in the fall of 1955. Only days out of jail and in need of money, the aspiring writer takes a job on a small, isolated mink ranch off the Oregon Coast. Jeff soon realizes that what is supposed to be simple, temporary employment is going to change his life in ways he could not have foreseen.
Ranch owners, Rose and West Helner, live with their two disabled sons in a run-down house on the desolate property. The long-married couple has a scarred history and live an alienated co-existence. Each seems eager to have a new listener around and tries to coerce Jeff into his way of thinking; all too often Jeff finds himself drawn into the continual conflict between them and forced to take sides. He soon realizes that Rose uses the mink ranch as a way to bind her husband to a subservient role and keep her wheelchair and couch-bound sons dependent on her.
Two traumatic incidents open his eyes to what happened to a previous employee and he struggles with his promise against what he has learned. The killing of calves for mink food, the slaughter of cows, the skinning of mink, the constant death of living things, begin to alter Jeff's perception of reality and bring out his darker nature, a side of himself he has struggled to control. In the midst of this turmoil, Jeff finds romance with Rassel, the neighbor’s daughter, but their relationship is soon tested when she asks Jeff to leave the ranch and take her with him.
Isolated, trapped, and holding two secrets close to his breast, Jeff longs to go back to the real world and become a serious writer. Sometimes walking away is not easy.
"In The Cut of Pride, Jim Misko's third novel, a group of interesting, cantankerous misfits attempt to run a mink farm in rural Oregon. The resulting black comedy lifts the characters off the page and into our hearts."
--Leonard Bird, author of Folding Paper Cranes, an Atomic Memoir
"A home run. Misko's taut tale explores a life few people will ever glimpse: relationships and life on a mink farm in the Oregon hills. I want to know more of the hardworking, straight-up protagonist, Jeff Baker. Is there a sequel in the works?"
--Sally Petersen, author of Tea, Pie, Love and Reality, memoir-essays
"Jim Misko's love of writing is evident in this richly detailed and closely observed account of the forces that hold a family replete with resentment, strength, weakness, and love in thrall to a life that leads inevitably to destruction."
--Lynn Schooler, author of Walking Home, a traveler in the Alaska Wilderness
"Jim Misko, in his new novel The Cut of Pride, does something that is really rare in modern literature; he writes about hard, brutal, unpleasant physical labor. And he does it with such vivid detail that the labor itself becomes one of the major entities in the story. His cast of complex, dysfunctional characters owners and employees of a mink-raising farm in coastal Oregon nearly destroys itself in its struggle with the endless, nasty toil. Their human worth is tested by it. And the brotherhood of men who work well together like the brotherhood of fellow soldiers is shown as old West Helner and the young hired man Jeff Baker become friends by slaving alongside each other, both nearly unmanned by West's domineering wife Rose, the owner of the mink enterprise. These are unforgettable characters, and their pride and distrust and bitterness make for grim drama. Like Hemingway, Steinbeck and Ruark, he writes close to the edge."
--James Alexander Thom, author of Follow the River
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