On the stunning cover of the latest novel by Mary Clearman Blew, two riders on horseback canter across an open plain. High above in a vast Montana sky, Blew’s name appears like a ghost whispering from the clouds, in tiny type, above the title, “Think of Horses.” So there’s the first mystery: What does she mean, “Think of Horses”?

I was fortunate to have taken a memorable freshman English class from Blew at Lewis-Clark State College a few decades ago. (She is now professor emerita of English at the University of Idaho.) Having always lived in densely populated ocean-port cities as a Navy brat, I was new to small-town life. There was a mind-opening moment as she read aloud a piece — might have been about Wyoming — when I was touched by the life-giving beauty of words, and how language can connect the reader to landscapes that might seem remote and empty, but are really quite alive and full of wild and rich potential.