Book: Swift Dam

Local author (and veterinarian) Sid Gustafson’s latest book, Swift Dam (Open Books, $7), is set against the real-life tragedy of the Swift Dam collapse in 1964, when 30 people died in dam collapses and flooding in northwest Montana. Gustafson tells the story of a veterinarian and his life, work, and relationship with the Blackfeet Nation. The vet, Fingers Vallerone, mourns the losses of not just the individuals but of a culture. Gustafson embodies the storytelling culture in his distinctive style of prose. The discourse is at times sparse, and yet at others curiously insistent. It is a fast read, but tantalizing threads leave you picking through them long after you have finished. Gustafson uses landscape as the language of the Blackfeet Nation, and his intimate knowledge and sense of place shines through. Gustafson’s text seems to be a man’s book about men, with a masculine, almost patriarchal tone that probably reflects its characters.