“Gobsmacked in a good cause"

Andy Stone
Aspen Times

“Lime Creek” is about the American West.  It takes that eternal myth of the cowboy and carries it from almost a century ago into just about right now--and along the way, it shakes the dust off the myth and turns it into something more than just mystical.  Something real.  Real and yet so immense and strong and exact that it moves beyond reality.

It’s a story of men and women and horses and--looming above all, embracing all -- the fierce Wyoming mountains.

I said it’s a story, but “story” isn’t quite the word.  “Lime Creek” is a slim handful of episodes connected intimately and exquisitely by emotional and family and life--so much life they don’t need a “story”. 

The people and their lives are both astonishing and ordinary in equal measure.  No, not equal measure: entirely.  Entirely ordinary and entirely astonishing.

Henry starts from bone-deep knowledge of what he is writing about.  And then, word by word, moment by moment, thought by thought, he assembles a world.  Summer and bitter winter.  Life, death, harvest, love.

I don’t know how he does it.  I can’t even do a good job writing about it.

But that’s the nature of art:  to create something so extraordinary that it is exactly and only what it is.

Aspen. Times (August 28, 2013)
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“Busy Hands, Infinite Mind”

Hilary Stunda
Aspen Times Weekly

I entered the small cabin past a worn saddle covered with an old saddle-blanket, a thin shag carpet, and simple wood-paneled walls lined with filled book shelves.  We sat before an expansive window that framed snow-covered branches and the steel-bluegrey river ten feet away.  For the literary ingenue, this would be the chosen place to invoke the muses: an image of a young writer eagerly awaiting epiphany.  But for novelist Joe Henry, it could be a distraction.  It’s why half the window is boarded and why he writes in a windowless, closet-sized room, the width of a confessional.  Inside what he calls, “The Box,” Henry wrote his first novella about a ranching family in Wyoming.  Well-known in the music industry as a songwriter for performers such as John Denver, Frank Sinatra and Garth Brooks, “Lime Creek” has a visceral and lyrical cadence that takes the reader on a journey of the heart.  It is a story about the Davis family, the relationship between a father and sons, and the bond between brothers bound by ranching and dictated by nature.  Simple and profound, Henry explores the human soul through characters whose hard and honest lives are never far from the animals around them and the earth on which they stand.  

Aspen. Times Weekly (February 2-8, 2012)
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Discoveries: "Lime Creek"
A Novel by Joe Henry

Susan Salter Reynolds
Los Angeles Times

Joe Henry, a songwriter whose work has been performed by Frank Sinatra, John Denver and many others, has written his first novel in a style so spare and deep that it could almost be sung aloud by the reader. It is not so much a story, a narrative, as it is a ballad, an insight into the relationship between a father, his three sons, their mother, the horses they break and tend, and the place at the foot of the Wind River Mountains where they live, Lime Creek. Here is the father, a young man of 20, sent from his home in Wyoming to the unfamiliar East for college, walking three miles from a train station to ask the love of his life if she will marry him. Here are the three boys they raise making a fire to heat the water for their bath. Here they are learning to live with horses, learning about the cold, getting to know the land around their home. Here they are navigating the loss of their beautiful mother, remembering her hair and the way she talked to dogs. Here is their father, eating alone. With such lyrical writing, it is astonishing how little information we need to embrace the feeling of a family we will never forget.

L. A. Times (July 10, 2011)
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Henry's debut novel is like his songwriting --
lyrical and fine story telling

Jesse Coffey
Lexington Literature Examiner

Joe Henry may be a songwriter by trade but he's definitely a master storyteller and he's got a definite hit on his hands with his debut novel, Lime Creek.

Lime Creek is a series of verbal tableaus that paint the stories of a family as they go through their lives. Henry explores those lives carefully and poetically and the pictures are rich and moving.

The relationships are complicated and yet so beautiful and touching. Henry's prose puts you in the time and place. His own experiences of raising horses in Wyoming adds texture to the story. His songwriting ability is what makes this so poetic, from the way Spencer talks to the way he describes the land and the horses.

The pacing is perfect. You never linger in one "place" long enough to get bored. Each "chapter" shows another aspect of the characters. The dialogue is perfect; reading along, you can almost hear each character's speaking voice as they talk to each other. These people are so real, you feel as if you know them personally.

This is a marvelous character piece, with amazing characters and a riveting story line. For a debut novel, Joe Henry's Lime Creek is a masterpiece.

Lexington Literature Examiner (June 29, 2011)
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Aspen meets Joe Henry

Andrew Travers
Aspen Daily News

"Lime Creek," is an elegant work, coming in at 150 pages.

The book contains eight linked stories about a ranching family. The writing is mostly terse and pathos-rich, building to moments where Henry lets his poet's pen loose in gorgeous, lyrical and sparsely-punctuated paragraphs that will quicken the pace of any lover of the English language.

In those moments, and there are many of them in this slim book, Henry transcends any staid notions of "western writing." Yes, there are stories about the messy birth of a foal, the heart-wrenching death of a beloved mare, the crossing over into manhood of a young ranch-hand stranded horseless in a sub-zero snowstorm.

But the subtle ambition of "Lime Creek" is to chart the maddeningly rough-cut pathways of the human heart, their poignant intersections where fear meets courage, and where longing turns either to loss or love. In its best moments, this book elevates the world of tack and horseshoes beyond time or place or genre.

Aspen Daily News (June 21, 2011)
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'Lime Creek' is warmly mischievous, lyrical and enticing

John Colson
Aspen Times

Lime Creek (Random House), is a slender volume, eight chapters of glowingly deep prose, sometimes volcanic as it surges from the page and leads the reader through episodes of the lives of a modern Wyoming ranching family in the early 20th century.

The physical aspects of the book are deceptive, though. Easily devoured in a few days of occasional reading, Henry's depiction of the lives and times of rancher Spencer Davis, his wife and two sons is riveting in its spareness, its emotional gravity, and its blending of pathos and humor.

And it draws the reader back for successive visits, evoking a need to plumb the depths of this family's trials, tribulations and triumphs in the high basins backing up to the Wind River Mountains.

This is not, strictly speaking, a slice-of-life book. Rather, it amounts to a series of helpings from a strong gumbo of life, endlessly bubbling in a pot warmed by the flames of existence.

It is a very satisfying stew.

Aspen Times (June 20, 2011)
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Mountain Time

Internationally-renowned, award-winning songwriter Joe Henry
publishes his first novel – 20 years in the making

Erik Philbrook
Playback Magazine

Having thrived as a songwriter for much of his life, providing lyrics for well over a hundred recordings by a wide range of artists, from Frank Sinatra and John Denver (with whom he wrote 18 songs) to Olivia Newton-John, Roberta Flack, Garth Brooks, Rascal Flatts and many others, Joe Henry is about to become a first time novelist.

Inspired by his personal experiences living and working in Wyoming and Colorado, Lime Creek (Random House) tells the story of the Davises, a twentieth-century ranch family living a sometimes harsh, sometimes heartbreakingly beautiful life in the West. True to his often naturalistic, inspirational and always deeply emotional songwriting style, Henry has created a novel akin to beholding the Rocky Mountains themselves – an awe-inspiring experience that quiets the mind and stirs the soul. That he does so with prose that evokes such masterful writers as William Faulkner and Raymond Carver is a testament to his remarkable literary gifts. Lime Creek has already garnered praise from one of the great western authors of our time, Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove), who said, "Lime Creek is a wonderful book, subtle in texture, rich in sorrow. I hope it gets the readers it deserves."

Playback Magazine (June 15, 2011)   PDF of review



Kindness, Faith and Humanity

Nancy Chuda
Huffington Post

I couldn’t put this book down. Not for a minute. In a world in which tattered souls live amongst endless garbage and recycled news predicting gloom for the planet, Joe Henry’s LIME CREEK comes as a  breath of life and light, casting long-remembered shadows of the “firsts” in our lives while becoming a mantra for human kindness and time spent reconnecting with what we  have lost, including man’s oneness with nature and all
living things.

Set amidst the blinding snow storms and cold of Wyoming’s high country, LIME CREEK is a Faulkneresque glimpse into the lives of a family of people committed  to solidarity, simplicity, and a respect for life. The story centers around Spencer Davis and his sons. Henry captures the intimacy and connectedness of their harsh outer lives that draw them even closer together as they all bear witness to the eternal cycles of life and death; where the reveries of innocence trumpet the hard edges of experience.

LuxEcoLiving.com (June 11, 2011)   PDF of review


Library Journal—Starred Review

This first novel from noted lyricist Henry opens with a young man named Spencer gentling a two-year-old bay colt, watched closely by the woman he’ll eventually marry. It ends powerfully with Spencer’s son showing his stuff when he’s caught in a blizzard and must recapture a horse that has fled the barn, spooked by sliding snow. In between, told in heart-wrenchingly beautiful prose, we find the story of a Wyoming ranch family sometime in the 20th century. We see Spencer, out east at Harvard, diffidently wooing and eventually bringing home the sweetheart whose family summered in Wyoming. We see Spencer’s twin boys getting into serious mischief with a bunch of tomatoes. We see a lovingly described Christmas celebration in a barn and the struggle to save cattle as the terrible snows come, with Spencer uncharacteristically caustic as he tells his queasy children about a much darker, colder, and scarier time he spent in the army. And in the end, unfolding in discrete and carefully observed chapters, we have the whole picture of these touching, hard-earned lives. Brief but brilliant in the spirit of Paul Harding’s Tinkers, this remarkable work is highly recommended.

LIbrary Journal (March 15, 2011)   PDF of review