Crossing Purgatory

Set against the backdrop of the Great Plains during the years just preceding the Civil War, Crossing Purgatory deals with questions of unprincipled ambition, guilt, and the price one man is willing to pay for atonement. Beautifully scripted, spare and powerful, this is a story of relationships, of human frailties, and, ultimately, of redemption.


  • Schanbacher is a gifted writer whose prose is always elegant, whether describing the land, a winter storm, or the inner life of his characters. This is an intense and emotionally stirring saga.

    Booklist, starred review
  • This striking tale, a literary western..(is a) visceral and triumphant saga of the Old West.

    Publishers Weekly
  • A beautiful, lyrical experience memorable for its timeless evocation of human struggle at the fringes of civilization.

    William Haywood Henderson, author of Augusta Locke

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2013 Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction

2014 Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best Western Traditional Novel

Migration Patterns

This beautifully drawn collection of stories features characters living in or touched by the American West. Young and old, with heartbreaking pasts and uncertain futures, they cope with migration in all of its nuances—a young crab fisherman who exiles himself from the life he desires; an aging flower child who experiences enlightenment while waiting in the express checkout line; a veterinarian watching birds fall mysteriously from the sky; an old man seeing his life come full circle in the garden harvest. Spare, yet emotionally engaging, Migration Patterns is an exploration of the physical and spiritual aspects of moving on in life.


  • Schanbacher’s unflinching prose is also lyrical. With the accuracy of a laser, it lays bare the deepest emotions of the human heart.

    Rocky Mountain News, Grade: A
  • Schanbacher writes beautifully, but not in a showy way. He builds up characters and landscapes through simple, precise detail.

  • Introspective and soul searching, but not self-indulgent, the selections feel timeless.

    School Library Journal

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2008 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award Honorable Mention

Colorado Book Award, Fiction

High Plains First Book Award

Eric Hoffer Book Award, General Fiction

Independent Publisher Book Awards, Bronze Medal


More About The Author

Gary Schanbacher was born in Indiana, raised in Virginia, and lives in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains outside Denver, Colorado. He was educated at Randolph-Macon College, Old Dominion University, and the University of Colorado, where he earned his PhD in Economics.

His short story collection, Migration Patterns, received a PEN/Hemingway Honorable Mention for “distinguished first works of fiction,” and won the Colorado Book Award, the High Plains First Book Award, and the Eric Hoffer General Fiction Award. His novel, Crossing Purgatory, from Pegasus Books, is called an, “intense and emotionally stirring saga,” in a starred review from Booklist. He has been a Hemingway Fellow at Ucross Foundation, served many years on the board of directors of Lighthouse Writers Workshop, a nationally recognized non-profit writing center, and was a founding partner of The Writers Block, a writing community in Denver.
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