Gateway Towns: Bringing literature to life

Road Journals Blog—Some people think road trips are about getting from point A to point B. I think road trips are about listening to audio books, hour after hour. I once drove from Salt Lake City to San Francisco in a single day and wished the trip was longer because Salem’s Lot by Stephen King hadn't yet finished when I rolled into my driveway.

Ostriches in Utah? You bet. | Jennifer Reese

In advance of a series of drives I had to make while reporting a story for Via about gateway towns for national parks, I picked up The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, based on its glowing reviews. (Entertainment Weekly named it the best novel of 2010.) I listened to this wonderful book, narrated by David Aaron Baker, when I tried to drive from Jackson, Wyo. to West Yellowstone, Mont. I listened to it driving out of Las Vegas, and I listened to it as I drove into southern Utah, toward Springdale.

Very briefly, The Lonely Polygamist is the tale of a hapless man named Golden Richards and his many wives and children, all of whom live in a Utah community I assumed to be entirely fictional. But at the point in the book in which a town called Hurricane is introduced, I happened to enter the town of Hurricane.

That was so cool! I began to picture the book's characters moving around in the stark, red-gold landscape outside my car windows.

Shortly thereafter, a pivotal scene took place that involved a child and an ostrich that lives on the property adjoining the polygamous compound. I frowned. Why must authors always add these irritating surreal touches to perfectly good realistic novels? An ostrich. Hmmph. I had never seen an ostrich outside a zoo.

I almost drove off the road when, not five minutes later, I saw an ostrich. Several ostriches. As it turned out, there’s been an ostrich ranch in this part of the world for as long as anyone can remember. Everyone I met in Springdale knew all about the ostrich ranch, but not a single person had heard of The Lonely Polygamist. I recommended it far and wide.

The Lonely Polygamist: great listening for any drive, but essential if you happen those motoring through southern Utah.

Jennifer Reese wrote about gateway towns to national parks for the July/August 2011 issue of Via.

This blog post was first published in August 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.