Nothing says Nevada like Robert Laxalt’s 1957 classic Sweet Promised Land. The opening sentence, “My father was a sheepherder, and his home was the hills,” evokes love, family, and place. Dominique Laxalt, an immigrant Basque sheepherder, made a home of “the lonely Sierra of Nevada.” After many years herding sheep and raising a family in and around Carson City, Dominique returns to the Basque country of Spain to see his sick sister. There he meets his past head on, but not without a struggle.
In that journey he was someone—someone who went to America and returned. In doing so, he learns he has “lived too much in America ever to go back.” Like Nevada, Robert Laxalt’s prose is spare and lean. It is a place of hard angles and aridity even when staring a blizzard in its face. It is not soft and it is not easy, but it can make a life.
Whether you are new to Nevada or a native daughter, run don’t walk to Sweet Promised Land, and stake your claim.
Patricia “Patti” Cooper-Smith is a 40-year resident of northern Nevada, and still learning; she is the newly elected President of the Friends of the Carson City Library.