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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

May 19, 1996|CHRIS GOODRICH

THE MAZE: A Desert Journey by Lucy Rees (The Countryman Press: $21; 198 pp.). Southeast of the Grand Canyon, in the middle of nowhere and as their relationship frays toward crisis, Rick Eastwood says to Lucy Rees, " 'I see that I have been a cowboy, where you're an Indian.' " Indeed: the Wales-born Rees realized at the age of 8, while looking at an Edward Curtis photograph of Navajo in Arizona's Canyon de Chelly, that her soul's home lay in the American West.

Rees is a remarkable writer, and this is a remarkable book, recounting a many-week horse trek through the high wilds of Arizona. Rees and Eastwood are ostensibly seeking the Hopi equivalent of an ancient, circular maze carving (a style known as Cretan) they had first seen in Cornwall, but this grail is as much excuse as metaphor, the couple also pursuing adventure and answers, forgiveness and first causes. After purchasing and training Rose and Duchess, two misfit horses otherwise headed for the glue factory, Rees and Eastwood head out into little-traveled badlands for 200-odd miles of natural beauty punctuated with human suffering and hospitality.

Rees reproduces the Cretan maze in prose (the exit is also its entry, a claustrophobic single path that doubles back on itself). At first her concerns seem light and easy, but they grow bitter, dark and desperate at the book's center, until the author perceives hope, a reconciliation of difference, at its close.

"The Maze" is an odd book, to be sure, but often spellbinding, full of canters and contusions but neither cant nor can'ts.

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