Drinking Dry Clouds

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In DRINKING DRY CLOUDS, Gretel Ehrlich manages a control over her interconnected “Stories from Wyoming” that is similar to that achieved in a fine novel; these stories collectively equal a novel’s scope and depth. It is interesting to see how this works.

This volume is divided into two sections that deal with life in a Wyoming community during and after World War II. Part 1, “During the War,” introduces Pinkey, a ranchhand whose avocations include drinking beer and whiskey and meditating on the shapes of clouds; Kai, a Japanese-American student en route to the Heart Mountain internment camp; a rancher, McKay, and his love interest, neighboring rancher Madeleine; Bobby, a Japanese cook and houseboy on McKay’s ranch; and others.

What we learn from the characters in part 1 is that all are suffering from feelings of displacement. There is a longing within each for homeland, roots, identity. Pinkey says, “We’re all half-breeds. The whole g—damned country is breeds. And what the hell difference does it make?” The moan of dispossession and displacement sounds through the volume. Ranchhand Raoul relates to McKay the loss of his village in Mexico: “It is water running everywhere. . . . Just like that—all that creation— pufff. Then I knew it was God talking. In the morning I see the whole village is gone. Well then, what am I to do?”

If many of the characters interpret their feelings of displacement as God talking...

(The entire section is 409 words.)