Review: ‘Curva Peligrosa’ by Lily Iona MacKenzie

Curva PeligrosaCurva Peligrosa by Lily Iona MacKenzie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mexican Curva Peligrosa follows America’s first “superhighway,” the Old North Trail that has seen many hooves, bare feet and moccasins traveling between Southern Mexico and Canada over the past 12,500 years, and after 20 years of dreams and exuberant experiences, she settles in the small town of Weed, Alberta.

Magic follows her, to hovers around her and her mysterious green house, her herbal cures, her skills as a midwife, her sharpshooting, her otherworldly dandelion wine, her lusty appreciation of sex, and her larger-than-life approach to living that astounds and intrigues the residents of her adopted town. They are scared of her but can’t stay away.

Time and reality blur in this well-written and carefully researched novel, in part because the chapters are–in a sense–a series of slices life and mini-stories that are not exactly presented in chronological order. Along the trail, Curva writes letters to her dead brother Xavier who will become a frequent visitor to her spread near Weed. The prostitute and fortune teller Suelita and Billie, the Blackfoot chief from the nearby reservation, are also frequent visitors. Everyone drinks the wine. Lots of it.

And then there’s the man named Shirley from Sweet Grass, Montana who wants to drill for oil throughout the region. Shirley thinks he can tame Curva’s strange ideas, alluring body, and potentially oil-rich land.

Kadeem, the leader of a traveling troupe of acrobats and other performers tells Curva, “Nothing is what it seems. Carpets fly. Plants give birth to animals. Characters escape from novels. All this is normal.” Such things occur as regularly as the rising and setting of the sun and moon throughout the inventive magical realism, addictive plot, and exotic character development of Lily Iona MacKenzie’s “Curva Peligrosa.”

Chances are good that Curva, Sabina (her daughter of unclear origins), Xavier (who dislikes being called dead, much less a corpse), Billie (who talks to old bones), Suelita (who longs for wings), and even Shirley (who thinks material riches are everything) will ultimately escape from from this novel. If so, they will visit you during storms, fog, and dreams. This is normal.

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Crown of the Continent Resources

The ‘Crown of the Continent’ ecosystem is one of North America’s most ecologically diverse and jurisdictionally fragmented ecosystems. Encompassing the shared Rocky Mountain region of Montana, British Columbia and Alberta, this 28,000 square mile / 72,000 square kilometre ecological complex spreads across two nations; across one state and two provinces; and across numerous aboriginal lands, municipal authorities, public land blocks, private properties, working and protected landscapes. — Crown Managers Partnership

As national headlines focus on whether a potential lack of funding at the federal level will jeopardize national parks and water quality standards, I thought I would focus on the positive work being one throughout the Alberta/Montana/British Columbia Crown of the Continent Ecosystem by listing a few of the organizations you can turn to for information, programs and advocacy.

Alberta Wilderness AssociationAlberta Wilderness Association (AWA) is the oldest wilderness conservation group in Alberta dedicated to the completion of a protected areas network and the conservation of wilderness throughout the province.

Bob Marshall Wilderness ComplexTogether, the Great Bear Wilderness, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Scapegoat Wilderness form the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, an area of more than 1.5 million acres.

Crown of the Continent EcosystemEncourage and support coordination and cooperation among individuals, organizations, and agencies whose purpose is to educate and inform people of all ages and backgrounds about the human and natural resources of the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.

Citizens for a Better FlatheadTo inform and empower citizens in cooperative community development that respects and encourages stewardship of the Flathead Valley’s natural beauty and resources.

Flathead National ForestStretching along the west side of the continental divide from the US Canadian border south approximately 120 miles lies the 2.3 million acre Flathead National Forest. The landscape is built from block fault mountain ranges sculpted by glaciers, and covered with a rich thick forest.

Headwaters MontanaWe are working to secure the highest level of protection possible for pristine public lands, such as watersheds in the Swan, Mission, Whitefish and Yaak ranges and untouched Crown lands across our border with Canada.

National Park Service, Glacier National ParkCome and experience Glacier’s pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and spectacular lakes. With over 700 miles of trails, Glacier is a hiker’s paradise for adventurous visitors seeking wilderness and solitude.

Nature Conservancy – MontanaOur mountains, rivers, grasslands and forests make Montana a natural paradise.

Waterton Lakes National ParkRugged, windswept mountains rise abruptly out of gentle prairie grassland in spectacular Waterton Lakes National Park.

While there’s much to be done on behalf of our environment, we can, I think, make better progress by making commitments to positive change as individuals and groups rather than standing on the sidelines and preaching to the choir about what we don’t like. We know what we need to do–or, we can learn.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two novels set partially within the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, “The Sun Singer” and “Garden of Heaven.” The e-book edition of his comedy/satire, “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” is currently on sale for only 99 cents at Smashwords and on Kindle.

Expanded Waterton-Glacier Watershed Protections Needed

from National Parks and Conservation Assn:

Former National Park Superintendents Call for Waterton-Glacier Expansion, Watershed Protections

Waterton Lakes - Chris Phan photo

Whitefish, MT — An international coalition of retired superintendents from Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada and Glacier National Park in the United States has voiced their concern for the future of those parks and the need for immediate actions by both countries to complete park protection measures begun earlier this year.

“Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is a treasure that we all share as North Americans,” said former Glacier Superintendent Mick Holm.  “In joining our voice with our Canadian counterparts, we’re hoping public officials in both countries will view our communication as a call to action on behalf of this globally significant World Heritage site.”

Waterton Lakes - Lesa Campbell photo

The letter, signed by nearly all of the parks’ former superintendents, comes in the closing days of Glacier’s centennial year, as Congress considers a bi-partisan public-lands omnibus bill (America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010) that includes several key park-protection measures. The package legislation encompasses more than 110 individual bills, aimed at protecting the country’s land, water and wildlife resources. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he would like to see passage before Congress adjourns early in the New Year.

In their letter, the former superintendents endorse a long-standing proposal for Canada to expand Waterton Lakes National Park westward, into one-third of the British Columbian Flathead.  They also call for Canada to establish a wildlife management area connecting Waterton-Glacier to other Canadian Rocky Mountain parks, including Banff.

Glacier - St. Mary's Lake - NPS

The former superintendents noted the historic nature of recent steps taken by both countries to prohibit coal strip-mines, hard-rock mining, and oil and gas leases on public lands upstream from Waterton-Glacier, including action to protect 400,000 acres in Canada and the voluntary relinquishment of 200,000 acres of oil and gas leases by energy companies in the United States. They note, however, that legislation to finalize the mining and drilling ban has yet to become law in the United States, and urge prompt action on that front.

They also call for expanded environmental cooperation across the border, and a formal international agreement between both countries to protect Waterton-Glacier and the surrounding Crown of the Continent ecosystem in Montana, British Columbia, and Alberta.

“To have nearly every retired superintendent from Waterton and Glacier calling for these measures is beyond significant,” said Tim Stevens, Northern Rockies regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association.  “These individuals spent their entire careers managing protected areas.  They understand better than anyone what steps are needed to ensure the ecological integrity and clean headwaters of Waterton-Glacier.”

In 2009, proposed mining activities in the Canadian Flathead Valley gained the attention of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which voted unanimously to send an international team of scientists to investigate whether the negative impacts of proposed coal strip mines warranted listing Waterton-Glacier as a “World Heritage site in Danger.”  The UNESCO report concluded that the proposed strip-mine would result in environmental harm to the World Heritage site.

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Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton

Those of us working at the Hotels in Glacier National Park, Montana, enjoyed trips across the border into Alberta for shopping, boating, horseback riding and hiking in Waterton Lakes Park. Our trip wasn’t complete without a visit to the Prince of Wales Hotel that sits above the town of Waterton with a superb view of the lake, and the mountains of Glacier Park beyond.

Early this year, author Ray Djuff (“View with a Room,” “Waterton and Glacier in a Snap”) released a thoroughly researched book about the hotel called “High on a Windy Hill: The Story of the Prince of Wales Hotel” via Rocky Mountain Books.

The title is certainly apt. On that hill, the wind seldom stops. Like the major hotels in Glacier, “The Prince” (or “PW”) as we called it, was built by the Great Northern Railway. The 90-room, 1927, Swiss-style structure is now a historic site. As a hotel employee during the 1970s, the Calgary-based Djuff knows the area well.

The descriptions, historical information and photographs are a nice addition to any Montana/Alberta tourist’s collection.



December 1 (on Writer’s Notebook): – A Tuesday Teaser for “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
December 3: Guest article by author Chelle Cordero
December 8: Interview with author Helen Macie Osterman

Lake Louise

Photograph by Lesa Campbell

Photograph by Lesa Campbell

Pristine, yes, Unfortunately, very crowded in August.

What you don’t see in this picture is that my wife was one of several hundred people all trying to take a picture like this at once.

At some point, Canada may need to consider taking steps to reduce the number of people in the park at any one time, for bumper-to-bumper traffic is not conducive to serenity, hiking, sight seeing or even to the environment itself.

Nonetheless, I hadn’t been to Banff since 1965 and wouldn’t have missed it even if there had been more people per square yard.

Fortunately, most people snapped a picture and went on to the next postcard view, so, the crowd thinned out when we hiked to the far end of the lake. The chipmunks running through the talus had, however, seen enough people to know how to panhandle for snacks.


P.S. I invite you to stop by an visit my new web site for my upcoming novel, Garden of Heaven.