Charlie Quimby's debut novel Monument Road was hailed by Publishers Weekly as one of the Big Indie Books for Fall 2013. Booksellers named Monument Road an Indie Next Great Read and picked it for the Reading the West shortlist. It was also Booklist Editors’ Choice 2013 and a Colorado Book Award Literary Fiction finalist.
Leonard Self has spent a year unwinding his ranch, paying down debts and fending off the darkening. Just one thing left: taking his wife’s ashes to her favorite overlook, where he plans to step off the cliff with her. But perhaps he’s not as alone as he believes.
Stark, beautiful landscapes attract all kinds. Artists and gawkers. Love birds and the lonely. Believers and scientists. Seekers and losers. Many have taken this same road past estrangement and loss to healing and hope. Though not all have returned, they can still help him answer whether his life is over after all. Buy this book
"[A] story about how doing right by people does more good that we even know, and about how acts inspired by presumption and/or revenge do greater damage than we plan."
– Andrew Hueller, author of How I Got Rich Writing C Papers
"Quimby’s storytelling, his humane impulses and his lyrical passages on the meaning of love and time, and on the history, geology and botany of the region, will surely impress readers. In this spirit-haunted place, Inetta’s life, even in death, circles outward to redeem Leonard. For Leonard Self, now 'seventy-some years' old, much remains to live for in a land where the ground is 'so parched and bare, men can’t help but look skyward. It’s no wonder, Inetta used to say, God chose the desert to reveal Himself.'"
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
"By story's end, we see everything better and have come to care immensely about this taciturn, withdrawn man who has spent the past year trying to stave off 'the darkening.' Monument Road is so rich with landscape, character and event that such a small telling cannot begin to do it justice. Read this exquisite story; it is a joy and a wonder and a tour de force of authorship."
"His love of character and the West is evident in every essential detail. Part modern western, part mystery, this first novel will appeal to fans of Louise Erdrich and Kent Haruf. Quimby’s prose reads so true, it breaks the heart."
"Much like the protagonist, the people he encounters are both figuratively and literally at the cliff's edge. Believable and human, these characters also have understandable and realistic motives. As the final moment approaches, Leonard, a rugged individual, and never one to ask others for favors, manages to find lessons from his deceased wife amid the flawed and damaged people surrounding him."
"Quimby's prose fits his subjects perfectly. It's clean, well-made and largely utilitarian, though the ranchland poetics flash now and again, surprising both his characters and readers. A kid learning to smoke reclines on a rock and lets 'his heartbeat slow as the sky turn(s) from the daytime's enameled blue bowl into a deep black broth filled with fairy dust.' This is a book of confessions and connections, fear, forgiveness and, ultimately, the stirrings of redemption. It suggests that it's far better to try to adapt than just fade into black."
"A high school girl in choir and theater who is trying to sort out the difference between good acting and bad acting. She’s trying to find hidden truths of herself (as are many of the characters in this book). There’s an awkward foster kid with a board but nowhere to ride it out on the ranch where he’s given a temporary home. There’s a once-idealistic reporter who now searches for the 'wretched thread' to demonstrate a cycle of abuse at a day care center."
"Readers will find much to think and talk about in Monument Road. Not to be overlooked is the love, humor and friendship among pain and loss, which makes it a book far more about the richness of life than the finality of death."
“Monument Road is a wonderful novel full of wit and wisdom, generosity and malice. Like the diverse and rugged geology of Colorado’s West Slope, the novel presents an array of engaging characters — stoic ranchers, passionate Christians, high school misfits, and others — who interact in unforeseen ways engendering love and death, hope and despair. ‘The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you’ as does this insightful novel."
"While not exactly a happy novel, Monument Road is beautiful and real, full of landscape imagery of the American Southwest as a poignant and sometimes haunting metaphor of our connections to the land."
"A marvelously broad novel, a truly modern western."
"Quimby’s writing is sensitive and graceful; he has a talent for revealing slowly blossoming characters who are beautifully flawed and realistic."
"[T]he author builds suspense skillfully, making the novel a page-turner, with each chapter contributing depth and complexity to the full narrative arc."
"Though the many characters and storylines can occasionally be difficult for a reader to follow, the end result is a story that accurately represents the beautifully tangled, complicated thing that is a human life. This well-written, award-winning book astutely addresses the changing face of western living, particularly on Colorado’s Western Slope."
See what booksellers and fellow authors had to say.
Monument Road, by Charlie Quimby, is a big-hearted novel chock full of memorable characters, a pleasure to read.
– David Rhodes, author of Jewelweed and Driftless
Charlie Quimby gets inside his character’s heads better than any writer I’ve come across in a long time. The voices in this book ring so true to life you can feel their pain, their laughter, and their longing.
– Aaron Curtis, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL
What a gorgeous novel this is–the kind that seems straightforward yet reverberates with layers of meaning. Scenes unfold as if a sudden guest appears at the door then later one discovers every guest has a purpose. The landscape of Monument Road is both beautiful and fraught with danger; so too are the risks one must take in one’s journey towards what has heart and meaning. Leonard, a man who lives close to the land but not to people, discovers what gifts his beloved deceased wife gave him in their long life together and discovers a different way to open himself to what others are offering him now. Everything about this novel is vivid and memorable. I was enthralled.
– Sheryl Cotleur, Frontlist Buyer, Copperfield's Books, Sebastopol, CA
In prose that might have been chiseled from the magnificent landscape he describes, Charlie Quimby has written a great big American Novel. Full of pathos and humor and sadness, you won't reach the end of this book without feeling fuller and wiser. What a gift Charlie has given us.
– Peter Geye, author of The Lighthouse Road and Safe from the Sea
Monument Road is a legitimate modern western, complete with an impressively authentic and aging rancher, heartache, ghosts, low-lifes, a rural landscape undergoing radical transformation, a glut of evangelical churches, and the ancient, powerful cliffs and mesas that surround it all, in southwestern Colorado. The narrative is likewise unpredictable and wild! A pleasure to read.
— Bonnie Nadzam, author of Lamb
Charlie Quimby’s Monument Road is a fine novel about the New West but also just plain a fine novel. In Quimby’s elegant prose, the character of Leonard Self emerges as endearing and maddening both, and around him Quimby builds an entire community of full-blown and enigmatic and always-original characters. Self’s independence is reminiscent of Bjartur in Haldor Laxness’s great novel Independent People, but Quimby’s vision is gentler and more redemptive. This is a novel with size and scope and generosity, with an acute understanding of human nature and a deep appreciation for the ways people face change and work out their lives in relation to each other.
– Kent Meyers, author of Twisted Tree, The Work of Wolves and The River Warren
The landscape and characters of Monument Road ring true. Charlie Quimby has created a story that is hard to forget. His attention to the details of a fading life and life style are spot on and will be a window to any reader's understanding of the central phenomenon of the New West.
– Dan O'Brien, author of Stolen Horses and Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch
No matter how hard you try to kill yourself, sometimes fate has other plans. Leonard Self has spent a lifetime working hard and barely getting by. He's not that different from most of the folks in Glade Park who farm, wed, have children and pray for rain under the red rock towers of the Colorado National Monument. Where he is different is in his quiet, content marriage to Inetta. Over a shared lifetime of hard work and intermittent happiness they have created a relationship that is seamless in it's acceptance of what each day brings. So when Inetta dies of cancer and asks Leonard to spread her ashes off of Artists Point in the Monument, he decides he might as well throw himself off too. As the story unfolds over the course of the year between when Inetta dies and Leonard is supposed to carry out her wishes, we watch in wonder as he misses signal after signal until we join him at the cliff's edge. Leonard will stay with you for a long time after you finish this novel. It's the best book I've read in a very long time!
— Anne Holman, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT
Monument Road will take you on a rewarding climb into the hearts and souls of real people searching for peace and understanding in an unforgiving landscape. This novel is ambitious in scope and as sweeping as the broad skies of Western Colorado, but delivers on all fronts. Fans of Kent Haruf, Ron Carlson or Wallace Stegner will find a lot to like.
– Mark Stevens, author of Buried by the Roan
With grit, grace and a full range of emotions, Monument Road's characters take dead aim at challenges to the Code of the West. Readers of Brady Udall and Louise Erdrich will appreciate the subtleties of language shaped by the landscape.
– Margie Wilson, Grand Valley Books, Grand Junction, CO
Monument Road owes something to Kent Haruf and the fictional territory of Holt, Colorado, but equally as much to Brady Udall and John Irving. As your bookseller my advice is that you don’t miss this wry, touching but ever-realistic book about life, death, love, luck and its opposite, and whatever else makes our days worthwhile.
— Betsy Burton, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT