Site Fidelity

Boyles, Claire

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Annotated by:
Zander, Devon
  • Date of entry: May-16-2022
  • Last revised: May-16-2022


Site Fidelity is a collection of short stories by Claire Boyles, a writer and former farmer who currently resides in Colorado.  Each of the stories focuses on a woman or family in the American West, forming interconnected narratives that inform one another. Some share recurring characters, while others, notably “Chickens,” stands alone, connected to the rest of the collection only by its common themes.


The first story, “Ledgers,” sets the stage for all of the others.  In it, we learn of the Gunnison sage grouse, an endangered species whose continuity is dependent on having the same lek, or courtship grounds, every year.  As the protagonist of that story describes them, when a dam was built and a reservoir filled and froze over near their historic lek, “they didn’t move to other leks, didn’t find solid ground on the shore.  The entire family just died out, pining for their land” (p. 10).  This is the definition of site fidelity - a “species that love their land so much they’ll die without it” (p. 12) - and is the origin of the collection’s title.  Just like the Gunnison sage grouse, the humans of Boyles’s collection are driven by site fidelity.  In doing so, the stories explore the way in which the characters interact with the myth of open land, untouched environment, and home in the West, but do not shy away from all that myth can often obscure - poverty, hardship, crime, radicalism.  As Boyles writes, “Site fidelity is a beautiful, romantic idea, but it’s also dangerous” (p. 10).

Boyle’s collection of short stories confronts problems that we think of as especially impacting the western United States - drought, the economic and environmental realities of resource extraction, grazing rights - but each story is universal in bringing such subjects down to an individual narrative.  Just as omnipresent in this collection is health, or rather ill-health.  With mentions of strokes, traumatic brain injuries, congestive heart failure, and more, many of the stories are shadowed by illness.  The body becomes a motivating and plot-driving force, such as in “Ledgers” when Norah returns to her hometown after her father has a stroke and in “Flood Stories” where the main character, Lottie, moves with her ailing mother away from their home to Denver after realizing that “this canyon.. has nothing that either of us needs:  no doctors, no jobs” (p. 112).   In this way, illness acts as a supporting character in the narrative; acknowledging that health and illness are just as corporeal as the idea of home to these women.


W. W. Norton & Company

Place Published

New York, NY



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