American Copper: A Novel
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Tags: 2015, Date: Nov 15, Star: Kirkus, Stars
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Publication Year: 2015
Length: 320 p.
ASIN: 1609531213
ISBN: 1609531213
“Brings to mind Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx . . . lyrical, prophetic, brutal yet ultimately hopeful.” — Dave Eggers
Buy from Amazon
About the Book

As Evelynne Lowry, the daughter of a copper baron, comes of age in early 20th century Montana, the lives of horses dovetail with the lives of people and her own quest for womanhood becomes inextricably intertwined with the future of two men who face nearly insurmountable losses—a lonely bull rider named Zion from the Montana highline, and a Cheyenne team roper named William Black Kettle, the descendant of peace chiefs.

An epic that runs from the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 to the ore and industry of the 1930s, American Copper is a novel not only about America’s hidden desire for regeneration through violence but about the ultimate cost of forgiveness and the demands of atonement. It also explores the genocidal colonization of the Cheyenne, the rise of big copper, and the unrelenting ascent of dominant culture. Evelynne’s story is a poignant elegy to horses, cowboys both native and euro-american, the stubbornness of racism, and the entanglements of modern humanity during the first half of the twentieth century. Set against the wide plains and soaring mountainscapes of Montana, this is the American West re-envisioned, imbued with unconditional violence, but also sweet, sweet love.

Review Quotes

“Brings to mind Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx . . . lyrical, prophetic, brutal yet ultimately hopeful.” — Dave Eggers

“Tough, poetic, and beautiful.” — Sherman Alexie

“In American Copper, Shann Ray harnesses his formidable sensibilities as both poet and short-form fiction writer to create a balance between the intimate and the epic. Contrasting Montana’s early-day rodeo riders with the rise of a dictatorial copper baron, the entire state becomes not only a backdrop but a mirror for complicated clashes of race and class, family and tribe, gender and society. Ray’s range of characterizations reminds us that despite its mythic tropes, the West has been a place of mind-boggling identities and all-too-human tragedies for a very long time. I was reminded as much of the tribal folklore of James Willard Schultz as the fearless genre-bending of Dorothy M. Johnson, and the pitch-perfect naturalism of James Welch. No small feat.” – Malcolm Brooks

“Some books devour their readers; other books are written to be devoured. With an emotional heart as enormous as the Montana mountains, Shann Ray’sAmerican Copper is that rare book that does both. In one breath you’ll marvel at Ray’s poetic lyricism, with the next you’ll grunt at his toughness. And in between you’ll turn the pages impulsively. With American Copper, Ray announces himself as one of the finest writers working today.” – Peter Geye

American Copper is a spacious and stirring book that arcs itself across the dark skies of the West. Centered on Evelynne Lowry, privileged daughter of an insatiable copper king, the novel divines the deepest sources of American tragedy—the implacability of wealth, the heartlessness of colonialism, the rage of racial injustice. Shann Ray’s beautiful prose blends the lyrical yearning of James Welch with the historic sweep of Philipp Meyer to create an epic tale anchored in bitter loss and annealed by powerful love.” —Alyson Hagy

“This grave, unusual novel unfolds with a beautiful evenhandedness, balancing the outer world and the inner life, Cheyenne and white experiences of early 20th-century Montana. Ray’s feel for the heart and soul of Montana and its people—all its people—graces every page. – Andrea Barrett, author of Archangel and The Air We Breathe.

“An expansive and luminous tale of the American West told through crystalline prose. American Copper ushers Shann Ray into the company of Montana’s finest writers. It’s a read as compelling as Harrison’s masterwork Legends of the Fall and Kittredge’s Willow Field. Heartbreaking and heart pounding and not to be missed.” — Debra Magpie Earling



Shann Ray grew up in Montana, played college basketball at Montana State University and Pepperdine University and professional basketball in Germany. Among other places, his work has appeared in the Best New Poets and The Better of McSweeney’s anthologies, and been selected as notable in the Best American Nonrequired Reading and Best of the West, and as a finalist for the Western Writers of America Spur Award. He now lives with his wife and three daughters in Spokane, Washington where he teaches leadership and forgiveness studies at Gonzaga University. American Copper is his debut novel.

Ray’s first book, a story collection entitled American Masculine, published by Graywolf as Winner of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize, was named by Esquire as one of Three Books Every Man Should Read, and selected by Kirkus as a Best Book, Best Short Story Collection, and Editor’s Choice selection. It won an American Book Award, the High Plains Book Award for Best First Book and Best Short Story Collection. The author received an NEA Fellowship in Creative Writing in 2012.

Sign up for Updates
Look Inside