Randi Randall works at the Yuma, Arizona office of the Bureau of Land Management as the resident geologist. She loves Yuma, the people who live there, and the surrounding desert. She has finally gotten her life together and is happily single. Kim Gatlin, an archaeologist from a California university, has received permission the BLM to survey and catalogue the Native American petroglyphs for the first time near Yuma.
Randi is not happy with the petroglyphs being surveyed because she knows that the surveying archaeologist will want to publish her findings. The ensuing publicity about the little-known petroglyphs will endanger them as tourists flock to see them by the droves. Kim is aware of what her surveying will result in, but feels strongly that the survey needs to be taken and she has the right to publish her findings. The fact that her career will be enhanced by the survey will be icing on the cake.
From this initial point of conflict between Randi and Kim, McCoy continues her tale of the two women. As summer approaches with its 100+ degree heat, so, too, does the tension between Kim and Randi heat up. Both women are aware of a growing attraction and both have reasons for wanting to ignore it. How they get beyond the conflict and their own wariness is at the heart of this story.
McCoy seamlessly entwines the geology and anthropology of the Yuma desert into the story. She is sensitive to the significance to both sides of the conundrum: the impact of publicizing the existence of the petroglyphs on the Native American culture or keeping the petroglyphs’ presence away from the public. McCoy is also able to weave some of the history of the Native Americans who occupied the area around Yuma into the story as Kim surveys the field of petroglyphs.
As the desert becomes hotter, McCoy is able to describe it in such a way that the reader may find herself wiping non-existent sweat from her brow or craving a tall cool one. Her description of life in the small Arizona desert town allows you to both understand Randi’s attraction to the place and Kim’s wanting to return to her California home.
McCoy has created two fully realized characters in Randi and Kim. Add to the mix of characters a dog, an old man searching for lost treasure, an old woman who drives around in the desert in a burro-drawn cart, and Randi’s dimunitive best friend, and you’ve got characters to love.
Not Every River was deservedly nominated for a Lambda Literary Foundation Lammy award for best lesbian fiction for 2010. You won’t go amiss by reading this story by Robbi McCoy.