The interconnected story cycle “Lost Borders” by Mary Hunter Austin concludes. Austin’s character types and settings are in many ways familiar from other westerns, but her perspectives are feminist, conservationist, and anti-gun. She died in 1934, and her books soon went out of print—just as Hollywood was establishing its masculinist myths of a Wild West dominated by gun violence.
Although Austin offers sympathetic portrayals of male psychology throughout, female characters are central to the final two stories, with the frontier allowing women to push against social boundaries. In “The House of Offence” (read by Lauren Robert), a deteriorating fence represents the social dividing line temporarily crossed when an upstanding Christian woman reckons with the humanity of the madam who runs the brothel next door. The title character of “The Walking Woman” (read by Sarah Torbeck) triumphs through love and work in a harsh communion with the land.
Jack Hanek hosts. Sarah Torbeck has read the role of the author throughout. The recurring poem that appeared at the beginning of the original book is read by Berklea Going. Special music comes from the album River of Light: American Short Works for Violin and Piano (Naxos, 2011), as performed by Tim Fain and Pei-Yao Wang. Books Unbound is produced, written and edited by Cynthia Wolfe with assistance from Sarah Torbeck.
“‘Lost Borders’ by Mary Hunter Austin, Conclusion” was produced during WFHB’s Spring Fund Drive, and contains messages from the Books Unbound community. For information on how to support this and other programs from WFHB, call 812-323-1200 or visit wfhb.org.
The Books Unbound podcasts allow you to listen to the complete “Lost Borders” story cycle from beginning to end in Austin’s original order:
• “The Land, “The Hoodoo of the Minnietta,” “A Case of Conscience,” and “The Ploughed Lands” in Part One
• “The Return of Mr. Wills,” “The Last Antelope,” and “Agua Dulce” in Part Two
• “The Woman at the Eighteen Mile” and “The Fakir” in Part Three
• “The Pocket-Hunter’s Story,” “The Readjustment,” and “Bitterness of Women” in Part Four
Executive producer: Joe Crawford
Books Unbound theme music: The Impossible Shapes