Lesley Poling-Kempes

Selected Works

The true story of remarkable women who left the security and comforts of genteel Victorian society and journeyed into the rugged outback of the American Southwest in search of a wider view of themselves and their world.
“In the exquisite novel BONE HORSES Lesley Poling-Kempes grandly creates the landscape of New Mexico as a living character – vital, enduring and full of magic. As the geography of the American Southwest comes alive on the pages, the geography of the heart is revealed to be far more than muscle and bone. This is a story of what truly knits us together – family, history, enduring friendships - served up in luminous language and unforgettable story-telling.” Mary E. Mitchell PEN Award-winning author
"Canyon of Remembering is a memorable and exceptionally well crafted novel." -- The Midwest Book Review
“A writer’s acute, compelling history of one of America’s more endangered landscapes. Digging deeply into the history of a place, Poling-Kempes mines a rich vein of lore and myth.” Kirkus Reviews
The definitive work about the Harvey Girls, Harvey Houses, and the Santa Fe Railway. Recently optioned by Atalaya Productions for a television series.
“Poling-Kempes is a skillful writer, smoothly dovetailing the human stories that make up the narrative of this pristine, peaceful, and appealing place. The author flat out knows how to tell a good story.” Richard Etulain
"In her meticulous account, Lesley Poling-Kempes discusses the geophysical origins of this land of 'extremes and contrast,' analyzing the layered stone formations and matching them up with O'Keeffe's keen observations of red shales, sandshales and silt stones created 200 million years ago. . ." – Dore Ashton, Times Literary Supplement
Southwest Book Award 2016

LADIES OF THE CANYONS 2016 WILLA Literary Award for Scholarly Nonfiction

2016 Spur Award finalist

BONE HORSES 2014 WILLA Literary Award for Contemporary Fiction

“A riveting read and thriller with no shortage of twists and turns everywhere, "Bone Horses" is a strong pick that proves the ability to keep the pages turning all the way through.” The Midwest Book Review

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Educated, restless, and inquisitive, Natalie Curtis, Carol Stanley, Alice Klauber, and Mary Cabot Wheelwright were plucky, intrepid women whose lives were transformed in the first decades of the twentieth century by the people and country of the American Southwest. Within the wild, raw beauty of the high desert and mountain landscape these ladies imagined and created a new home territory, a new society, and a new identity for themselves and for the women who would follow them.

"Part Willa Cather, part Thelma and Louise, here is a story of heroines, of mischief-makers and epic-builders, told by a writer who knows and loves the grand landscapes on which these larger-than-life women left their indelible mark."
—Hampton Sides

Bone Horses
2014 Willa Literary Award for Contemporary Fiction
Tony Hillerman Award for Best Fiction, 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards

“Lesley Poling-Kempes is deservedly known for her beautiful non-fiction books about Abiquiu and the Ghost Ranch area of northern New Mexico. Her second novel, Bone Horses, can only enhance her reputation. Her love of the land and its wild spirit shines through this tragic story with redemption at the end. It is a fine mystery, with complex twists and turns. Bone Horses is also a paean to the land and especially to its rare wild horses who symbolize all that is wonderful about our high desert country and all that needs our love and protection.”
John Nichols, author of "The Milagro Beanfield War"

Canyon of Remembering
"Canyon of Remembering offers beauty in simplicity as it depicts a variety of people, licking their wounds from a variety of hurts, who come together to form a true community … Poling-Kempes writes with a quiet, seductive rhythm that makes readers warm to the peace she bestows upon her characters." -- Publishers Weekly

Valley of Shining Stone: The Story of Abiquiu
“Abiquiu is a cosmic village. Its story has always been about many kinds of people and cultures. Everyone who lives here was once an immigrant. Abiquiu is a private place, but its story belongs to the world.” – Charles M. Carrillo

The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West
"A story that seems to have completely vanished from the national memory; for giving it new life, Poling-Kempes deserves gratitude and praise." -- Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

Ghost Ranch
Southwest Books of the Year "Top Choice" award, 2005

"Poling-Kempes is a skillful writer, smoothly dovetailing the human stories that make up the narrative of this pristine, peaceful, and appealing place. The author flat out knows how to tell a good story." -- Richard Etulain

Georgia O'Keeffe & New Mexico: A Sense of Place
Winner, 2005 Independent Publisher Book Awards, Fine Art Category