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The Weight of Dreams

About the Book

The Weight of Dreams

The endless, rolling prairie of the Nebraska Sandhills seems just like the kind of place to escape to, a place where life is simple and unsullied, untouched by technology and noise and the complications that other people bring. The Weight of Dreams lays bare the realities of life on America's last frontier—a life that even at the end of the twentieth century can be difficult and lonely but that can also be beautiful and redemptive.

The Nebraska Sandhills cover nearly 22,000 square miles of grassy sand dunes and include the largest and least populated county in the nation. Each cattle ranch averages 8,000 acres and while the sandhills remain a beautiful and sometimes unspoiled land, only a few hearty individuals—like Ty Bonte and Dakota—can survive here. And, as one would expect in a region where life is based on a single industry—ranching—there is an ongoing economic crisis. As a result, the gorgeous landscapes of the Sandhills are interrupted by dreary prefab houses, fast food stops, and empty storefronts cropping up in places like Babylon, Ty's hometown. There isn't much reason for young people to stick around, and it is difficult for ranchers like Rider Bonte to pass their land on to subsequent generations. People like Ty and Dakota are the exception; ranching as a way of life is just too hard for most of us.

In a place where you measure the distance between you and your neighbor in miles, not yards, community can seems like an abstract concept. Yet the acres of empty land that separate the inhabitants of the Sandhills also encourage its inhabitants to huddle close to one another, like cattle bracing themselves against a prairie blizzard. And Ty, after returning to his family's Sandhills ranch to face up to his checkered past, feels the weight of his neighbors' judgment on his back. The townspeople are also a heavy presence, bringing out the worst in him, leading him back to the behavior that drove him away from Babylon in the first place. On the Rosebud Reservation, with its trash-strewn lawns, decrepit houses, and the alcohol treatment center, he is considered a murderer, just one more reason for the red and white communities to mistrust and fear each other.

Through her portraits of Ty and Ryder Bonte, Dakota Carlysle and Harney Rivers, Cody Kidwell and Latta Jaboy, Joseph Starr and Jimmy Short Knife, Jonis Agee shows us that the Nebraska Sandhills are experiencing the same social crisis as the culture at large. And with their lives dictated by weather, nature, and the land, their existence is tenuous, perhaps more tenuous than life in a crowded city or a sprawling suburb. Indeed, The Weight of Dreams illustrates that life on frontier is far from simple. But for the people who do choose to live there, the Sandhills offers both solitude and freedom.

The Weight of Dreams
by Jonis Agee

  • Publication Date: August 16, 2012
  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 0140291881
  • ISBN-13: 9780140291889