Christy Crutchfield. Publishing Genius Press, $12.95 paperback (208p) ISBN: 978-0988750388
How do you survive a family? That is what is at the heart of How to Catch a Coyote. In Christy Crutchfield’s first novel, she lays everything out for the reader – an entire family history from start to finish, first unplanned pregnancy and all. But the history has been ripped apart, the pieces scattered to the four winds. It’s a great creative leap by the author, who shows us the collective patchwork of each family member’s memories, skipping back and forth between time periods. The primary focus goes to Daniel, the youngest of the Walker clan, who begins the novel writing a sort of family history for a college writing course, finding the effort pointless. With a bit of confidence, Crutchfield has Daniel lay out all the bare facts in the very first chapter. It’s a brave move as most authors (and their editors) would be too scared to reveal it all from the get go. Crutchfield handles it with deft skill. She returns to each era, showing it to the reader from different angles and points-of-view, each family member telling their side like a southern Rashomon. So we already know about the parents break-up and what ultimately happens to Hill Walker, the father. But as we return to the past again and again, seeing how each family member saw it unfold, we find new details and revelations. We also see more of the stark humanity of each family member. Each as complex as the other. All a sum of their faults.
All of this would have been a mere literary gimmick if Crutchfield couldn’t match it with really outstanding writing. She has a great knack for being both spare in her prose, not wasting a word, and yet somehow injecting something bigger within the simple lines. Small incidents have larger implications.