Pam Houston received high praise for her best-selling short story collection, Cowboys Are My Weakness, in which the story "Selway" is published. In an article written by Kelli Pryor for Entertainment Weekly, Houston's storytelling skills were referred to as "rousing." Pryor also pointed out that Houston's first book reached high status on several best-seller lists, which is "unusual for a story collection." Vince Passaro, writing for Newsday, also enjoyed Houston's stories. Passaro said it was because of Houston's "mastery" of language and her ability to powerfully describe her settings, all of which added "interest that helps counter" Houston's narrator's inability to solve her problems with men.
"Selway" is a story about the female narrator going on a white-water adventure with her boyfriend, Jack. They are somewhere in a northern land where the snow starts melting in June and floods the rivers. By July, the high rivers are all but out of water, so chances of getting a permit to run the rapids are slight. The narrator and her boyfriend are excited, even though the rivers are running higher than is safe for them to ride. Before they start their run, a ranger tells them that there has already been an accident, which the narrator and Jack find out later involves a death. The tension runs as high as the water throughout this short story.
The characters soon discover that the water is running so fast that they will have to analyze the rivers from above before they set their boats in the water. Once in the rapids, they will not have time to think. Their only chance of survival is to memorize where they have to go in order to avoid the rocks and the black whirlpools that are eager to pull them under.
Although they work well as a team in the midst of the wild currents, when on dry land, or more specifically, when they are back home, the narrator and her boyfriend seldom get along. They argue about everything. She is headstrong, and he has an opinion on every topic. She wants him to propose and after they nearly lose their lives on the river, she thinks he might. But she also questions if love and freedom are mutually exclusive. She wants her freedom but she also wants to tie Jack down, keep him home where she is more assured he will be safe.