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Selected Reviews of Along the Sylvan Trail

Along the Sylvan Trail is a journey. Not only do we get beautiful descriptions of the trail itself but of a multitude of characters that pass upon it. Julianne Couch’s character building is absolutely insightful. The relationships of the characters with each other and with nature is authentic and relatable. We get a glimpse of each character’s journey and the thoughts and emotions that led them to certain decisions. Like the trail, all these characters interconnect in some way but we get to learn their stories as if we were looking out on the landscape, sometimes looking at the most recent piece of geology, but often looking back across time. Couch does a great job weaving all these intriguing tales into a book that leaves you wanting, more than anything, to go and explore the natural beauty of the West. As a newcomer to the West, I greatly enjoyed her vivid landscape descriptions. This story is a journey worth taking and I highly recommend immersing yourself in this book.

Glory Taylor, Library Specialist
Emmett D. Chisum Special Collections, University of Wyoming Libraries

Editorial Review

Julianne Couch does not merely depict her characters, she inhabits them with a genuine compassion that anchors her stories with wit and humor. In her portraits of small towns and the people in them, Couch is so much more than a keen observer. With the precision of a gem-cutter, she frames not just places and people, but also the most precise moments when they are most fully and radiantly revealed to us.
--Amy Sage Webb, Author of Save Your Own Life


Selected Reviews of The Small Town Midwest

Approaching her story as a traveler allowed Julianne to explore what most of us might miss on a single drive through, where all we see is a four way stop and convenience store restroom. What Julianne the traveler found was what most expect, that even as we identify heavily with the portrayal of America’s small town image, few of us are tempted to live here much longer than a family visit or brief bed and breakfast weekend.

Richard Oswald of the Daily Yonder.

“The twenty-first century is not yet history to most historians, but examining aspects of our contemporary world assists in making connections to the past. ... Julianne Couch offers much to those studying rural America in the present and the past." -- Agricultural History

“The study is of this particular moment and can serve in years to come as a baseline study of what life was like in the first decades of the twenty-first century because towns will adapt and change as necessary. Thankfully, Julianne Couch captured these communities at this moment in this insightful monograph.”—Journal of Illinois History

Couch has a gift for connecting with people and introduces us to a cast of characters who make these towns come alive.... One of the conclusions Couch comes to is that if rural towns are going to grow their populations, it will take the commitment of individuals to make it happen. In other words, there must
be townspeople who have the determination, personality, and gumption to sustain living in the rural Midwest. Through its engaging format and focus on individuals, The Small-Town Midwest is a useful book for anyone who cares about the fabric of rural life in the Midwest. -- Kansas History

Julianne Couch offers a “writer-on-the-road” regional account of the Midwest and Great Plains by tracing local resiliency. Less concerned with primary sources than personal anecdotes, Small-Town Midwest is a series of local community snapshots. Resilience resides in the coffee-shops, rural universities, and farming cooperatives so often overlooked by coastal politicians, academic scholars, and federal bureaucrats. A series of brief but rich chapters on rural towns in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri highlight how the West is as much a state of mind as a region. In her own way, Couch details how the past collides with present in rural places. The rural “now”—how the region is currently farmed, lived in, or driven on—matters just as much as how it is remembered. Nebraska History, Winter 2016.


Julianne Couch opens the door to cafés and coffee shops, motels and newspaper offices to dramatize the workings of small midwestern towns. She highlights the hard work of town leaders and the vision of strong communities to maintain their integrity, attract jobs, and retain their young people. What a fascinating look at what it means to commit to place, to embrace cultural heritage, and to become tied to the land. This book should be on the shelf of everyone who cares about the fabric of richness of rural life. ”—Mary Swander, author, Farmscape: The Changing Rural Environment

"The Small-Town Midwest should be pored over, studied, and debated by town mayors and rural county officials who truly want their home-town to survive and thrive into the future. Julianne Couch shows that small-town problems can be solved, if people committed to their towns and rural communities can open up a bit to new ideas, and are willing to tackle seemingly intractable problems with energy and good humor. Couch’s nine Midwestern small towns (spread east to west between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, and north and south between the boot heel of Missouri to the Minnesota state line) all have their own unique problems and all have struggled, at times, to survive. But Couch shows us that all of these towns can have exciting futures, and her thoughtful guided tour of these towns is not to be missed." --Pete Grady


"Couch makes the reader care and even want to visit, move to, or return to these unique, yet similar spots of Americana where town survival depends on those who actively support and are involved in their ‘family” communities. Hope prevails as Couch gives us “a hint of a trend that to young people, rural is becoming cool."

Full review from Wyoming State Library is here

Selected Reviews of Traveling the Power Line

Journalist Couch (Jukeboxes & Jackalopes) leaves her home state of Wyoming to learn how electrical power is generated across the United States and to uncover the impact of various production methods. In story-driven prose, she shares her experiences touring many types of power plants, from nuclear to solar. Couch addresses pros and cons of each method alongside detailed verbal descriptions, though generally photographs would have saved more than the proverbial thousand words. Throughout, she returns both in body and spirit to her home base, contemplating the local climate and how it impacts daily life. Couch balances information obtained from power plant tours with commentary from local and national environmental advocacy groups; at times, complex environmental concerns impede decision-making, such as pitting local wildlife against greener power. Readers will gain information about each form of power—wind, coal, nuclear, natural gas, biomass, geothermal, solar, and hydroelectric—but Couch's aim is not to provide an exhaustive scientific evaluation, and she avoids direct comparison and specifics, such as efficiencies, in her discussion. Rather, this is a layman's guide to the choices facing much of the country as state and federal governments move toward cleaner fuels that produce fewer greenhouse gases. (Publishers Weekly Mar.)


Wyoming-based journalist and essayist chronicles her visits to nine electrical power stations across the country, examining the pros and cons of the fuel sources used at each site.

In a book that is part travelogue and part news report, Couch lucidly confronts the specter of what she calls the "new energy crisis.” Her project began as a way to learn about the major methods of electrical production, including those that involved wind, water, geothermal, solar and nuclear power. Between 2008 and 2010, Couch traveled around Wyoming and then to Nebraska, Iowa, Utah, Nevada, Texas, Kentucky and Maine to talk to "scientists, engineers, policy advocates, environmental activists, industry experts and the folks who work in or live around various sites of energy production." The result is a study that shows both the positives and negatives associated with nine different fuel types—excluding oil, which Couch associates with transportation rather than household or industrial needs—from which electricity is generated in America. She shows that none, including those that seem the greenest and the safest, are without some cost to use. For example, although the sun is an inexhaustible source of energy, its power can only be harvested for large-scale use in certain parts of the country. Moreover, a solar plant currently needs "seventeen times as much land as a nuclear [one] to generate the same amount of electricity." Couch does not offer any opinions on which fuels are ultimately best for an energy-hungry America. Instead, she presents information clearly and objectively to help readers better discern "the difference between numbers meant to impress, stories meant to persuade, and facts that prompt action."

Fair, thoughtful and balanced. Kirkus Review.

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