Practicing veterinarian and journalist Sid Gustafson’s new novel, Swift Dam (Open Books, $14.95) is a short but satisfying read. In telling the story of an elderly veterinarian who sits out one long night under the dam and recalls the day of the great flood 50 years earlier that wiped out a large Blackfeet community, Gustafson evokes the landscape and the lives of an area still devastated half a century after the flood. But, of course, the wounds go much deeper and are much older. And the mysteries surrounding the lives of the people are deep and entangled. Like Gustafson’s previous novels, Horses They Rode and Prisoners of Flight, this is a book that demonstrates personal empathy and a sure hand with image.
Erin H Turner for Big Sky Journal, Arts Edition, 2016
Montana Quarterly Magazine
Book Review, Spring ‘07
Horses They Rode
By Sid Gustafson
Riverbend Publishing, 288 pages
Reviewed by Justin Easter
Bozeman author and veterinarian Sid Gustafson has the rare ability to take you from your seat and place you directly in his novel.
He accomplishes this in Horses They Rode not with the all-too-common literary tactics we are used to, but through the use of fascinating imagery. While giving the reader familiar points in Montana to use as reference, Gustafson transports his readers into a different countryside than the one we see from our windows.
Gustafson brings his reader into a world where Indians and cowboys live together, and before the novel even progresses, the affect of this relationship, however strained, is evident to the reader. The nomadic qualities of Gustafson’s characters echo throughout the novel and resonate in any reader who has felt an itch for exploration.
If you are interested in opening a book that will captivate your imagination while encouraging introspection, you need not look further than Horses They Rode. You may put this novel down wondering about the spirit of the mountains, the relationships you have with people around you, or even the relationship you have with yourself. This is, of course, not surprising when you realize Gustafson is using his own experiences to masterfully shape his characters.
Expect to read one of the finer stories related to quickly dissipating Montana culture, and one of the most impressive novels written by a Montana author this year. Hold on to your emotions, because there will most likely be an instant when Gustafson is able to open your mind in a way that is truly fascinating.