This is the weakest of the three Wyoming Stories collections that Annie Proulx released. I would have to say a long collection culled from all three would have been the best way to present the total package with a handful from each and a few of the weaker or empty stories completely removed would have worked best for me. In this one, there are a few very good stories, as you would expect from a strong writer. The first story “Family Man” about an older man in a retirement community sort of regretting having survived a life of adventure has some common themes, but satisfying writing. There’s the other big story in the collection “Cowboy Songs” as well as plenty of other very good ones. There’s also a couple of stories that cast the Devil in the lead role and I hated them and could barely muster the energy to read them. Perhaps they were fun to write, but I generally don’t like that kind of story anyway, and they felt very out of sync with others. I felt the same way about a story from the first collection that I liked, but also felt out of sync. Here it’s both.
There’s no anchor story in this one like in the other two. Proulx is in the unfortunate situation that she wrote Brokeback Mountain and put it in the opening collection and it’s far and away the best part of the whole three together. The middle collection had two or three shorter but also powerful stories and this collection didn’t quite have any that stood up on their own and provided structure for the rest.