The Riven Country of Senga Munro tells the story of Senga Munro, an herbal simpler or healer, who tragically loses her daughter. Most of the story is set in contemporary Northeast Wyoming, where the book's author, Renee Carrier, has lived for more than 32 years. Her novel takes on themes of place, grief and magic realism. Wyoming Public Radio's Catherine Wheeler spoke with Carrier about the importance of the story's setting.
Renee Carrier: I set it here [Northeast Wyoming] because that's what came to me. In a state as rural as Wyoming, I believe our stories are somehow more concentrated, don't you find? Like the proverbial hero's journey tale, it stands more of a chance you know, in these epic landscapes. You know, Senga would say yes, even the flora and the fauna are characters and should be mentioned because it's, you know, we're all connected. Not to get too airy fairy about it, but it's all in one piece. And when you're writing, I think you know, especially if what you're writing you consider literary fiction, you can get away with assigning, you know, these roles to two entities and such.
Catherine Wheeler: And so in the story you play with time. It's very interesting you kind of start with one of the biggest events that carries through the rest of the story. What made you decide to incorporate flashbacks and kind of play with time in that way?
RC: Well, I needed to have an origin story for Senga. The way the story begins gets you right into her defining event of her life, and it's no secret it's the death of her daughter. So I wanted to just do that and then go to flashbacks as to what led up to it and then I pick up the thread again and go on. But it needed to be said right from the get-go, I thought. The reader needs to also understand Senga's psychology, you know as to why she maybe had so much trouble with this. It's not so much a flashback because it's more like what happens in the first chapter is a flash forward and then I start, you know, with her granny. And I wanted to give granny, her grandmother, due time because she's such an important part of Senga's psyche.
CW: And I guess jumping off that point grief and loss is like, you know, a huge part of this. Is there anything in your own life that really drew you to kind of analyze and kind of you work on this idea?
RC: Well, I would see grief for one thing very much tied to time, because, you know, they say, you know, well, you'll get better in time. Well, that's I don't believe that's how time works. I don't see it as linear, myself. I think everything's always happening at the same time and just as being humans, we have to, you know, figure out how to deal with that. Grief and loss are tough subjects to deal with in a novel. People don't sometimes like reading about it, given the news cycle today especially. But it's my belief and a fervent hope that stories are anodynes against pain. And that they can offer solace, and ultimately for Senga, a sense of purpose and agency.
CW: And this is book one of a series and you said you're working on the third right now. So the second is finished?
RC: I'm finished with all three of them. I'm formatting the third right now, but I'm working on the fourth one. It's a work in progress, plus another nonfiction project I've got going. I'm really grateful for it.
CW: Renee Carrier is the author of the Riven Country of Senga Munro, which is out now. Thank you so much, Renee, for taking the time to speak with me.
RC: Thank you, Catherine.
Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at firstname.lastname@example.org.