Whip and Spur by Iver Arnegard. The University of Southern California: Gold Line Press, 2014. 64 pages. Paperback.

In this stunning collection of six pieces of fiction, author Iver Arnegard takes readers on a journey through the Northern Plains—stopping in locations in Montana, North Dakota, and Colorado to name a few. With each new location, Arnegard makes us feel at home as we explore the human and nature struggles that his characters are battling. We begin our adventure with “Ice Fishing”, where a man reflects on a woman that appeared just as quickly as she disappeared from his life, and follow other characters such as the woman in “Recluse” who tries to connect herself with the man with the pale eyes, as well as Eric in “Made of Land or Water”, who returns home to North Dakota to deal with his hatred for his deceased father.

While keeping with traditional story forms, Arnegard also takes new approaches in “Seventeen Fences” and “What Rises”, breaking sections off by numbers that hold importance to the telling of the story. But perhaps what is more interesting is Arnegard’s use of close setting and detailed location in each story presented: “If you have an old map, you might still find Farland, North Dakota: the sod post office writhing with moles and the Wagon Wheel Inn, glass shot out of each pane, front doorway open and choked by a knot of tumbleweeds. And if you care to stop and untangle the years, you’ll find the last great boom when the price of wheat was up, cattle prices up, even water in the rain gauge up.” Arnegard’s talent for placing readers into his settings is magnificent, and something that stands out exponentially in Whip and Spur.

-Olivia Buzzacco, MAR