By Christine Byl
Set in rural Montana, Lookout centers on the dual coming-of-age of a girl and her father amid the natural and cultural forces that shape their family.
Publication Date: March 14, 2023
Lookout tells the story of the Kinzlers, a complex working-class family firmly rooted in northwestern Montana.
Josiah and Margaret Kinzler have forged an unusual bond marked by both tenderness and distance; their daughters, Cody and Louisa, grow up watching their parents navigate what it means to be true to yourself and what that costs. Lookout offers a gripping dual coming-of-age: Cody’s from stoic ranch kid to hotshot firefighter to resilient woman learning to rely on others, and Josiah’s as he struggles to thrive in a world that has misunderstood him. Bound by their love of the land, the Kinzlers work to bridge the gaps created by what they leave unspoken. Lookout brings to life a family coming out to itself, at home in a new and nuanced American West.
CHRISTINE BYL is the author of Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods (Beacon Press, 2013), a book about trail crews, tools, wildness, and labor; it was short-listed for the 2014 Willa Award in nonfiction. Her prose has appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, The Sun, Crazyhorse, and Brevity, among other journals and anthologies. A grant recipient from the Rasmuson Foundation and the Alaska State Council on the Arts, and winner of the Alaska Literary Award in 2015, Byl has been a fellow at Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and writer-in-residence for Fishtrap’s Writer-in-the-Schools program. Christine has worked as a professional trail-builder for more than twenty-five years; she lives with her family in Interior Alaska on the homelands of the Dene.
“In Lookout, Christine Byl brings a Montana family to life over rich decades, and nothing could be more extraordinary. Love and loss, laughter and mayhem, triumph and disaster, animals wild and domestic, timeless geography, lingering trouble, romance, difference, fire. Beautifully written, compelling, and deeply affecting, Lookout lets us love what’s real in the dying light of legends.”
—BILL ROORBACH, author of Lucky Turtle, Life Among Giants, and The Girl of the Lake
“In Lookout, Christine Byl traces family heartbreak crack by crack with exceptional and steely grace. It’s incredibly hard for a writer to evoke the tenderness that passes between parents and children, and the affection that passes between sisters who could be rivals but choose to be friends, without straying into the sentimental, but Byl does just that, and I’m so glad as a reader to have received that rare gift. Each gorgeously written, deeply felt sentence radiates what Raymond Carver once called a small, good thing, and these characters, and the wild Montana landscape they love, are indelible because of it. This book and its singular music will stay with you.”
—CARLENE BAUER, author of Girls They Write Songs About and Frances and Bernard
“A first-rate storyteller.”
—WILLIAM KITTREDGE, author of Hole in the Sky and The Nature of Generosity
“What a beautiful book. In Lookout, each character’s struggle to live authentically is as rich and clearly rendered as the Montana landscape that sustains them. In this lyric, moving story of family and self, Christine Byl explores the costs of what the Kinzler family chooses to withhold from one another, and what they eventually reveal.”
—CLAIRE BOYLES, author of Site Fidelity