Trinity University Press

Crossing the Plains with Bruno

Annick Smith (author)

A female Travels with Charley that takes us through the soul of the American West into the vast unknown of the human heart

Dogs, like humans, have memories, instincts, fears, and loyalties. But as far as we know, dogs do not get swept up in nostalgia, speculation, or self-analysis. Although they have hopes, they are not driven by regrets. In Crossing the Plains with Bruno, Annick Smith weaves together a memoir of travel and relationship, western history and family history, human love and animal love centering around a two-week road trip across the Great Plains that she and her ninety-five-pound chocolate lab, Bruno, took in the summer of 2003. It is a narrative of linked meditations, often triggered by place, about how the past impinges on the present and how the present can exist seemingly sans past.

Traveling from her rural homestead in Montana to pick up her nearly 100-year-old mother from her senior residence on Chicago’s North Side and bring her to the family’s beach house on a dune overlooking Lake Michigan, Smith often gets lost in memory and rambling contemplation. Bruno’s constant companionship and ever present needs force her to return to the now, reminding her that she too is an animal whose existence depends on being alert to the scents, sights, hungers, and emotions of the moment.

Passing through wide open spaces, dying ranch towns, green cornfields, and midwestern hamlets, Smith is immersed in memories of her immigrant Hungarian Jewish family, her childhood days in Chicago, her early marriage, and her ultimate migration West. Triggered by random encounters along the way, she’s taken back to life as a young mother, her career as a writer and filmmaker who produced the classic A River Runs Through It, the death of her husband, and the thrill of a late romance. A lifetime of reflection is played out one mile at a time.

Crossing the Plains with Bruno is a story narrated by a woman beset by the processes of aging and living with the imminent reality of a parent’s death, but it is the dog that rides shotgun, like Sancho Panza to Don Quixote, that becomes the reminder of the physical realities outside our own imaginations.


  • Designated as a Fall Recommended Reading in High Country News
  • Designated as Holiday Gift Guide Pick for 2015 in The New York Times Book Review
  • Designated as Midwest Independent Booksellers December 2015 Pick
  • Winner of Honor Book for the 2015 Montana Book Award


“Annick Smith invites a chocolate Labrador retriever named Bruno to hop up into her Toyota 4Runner for a road trip from her home outside Missoula, Mont., to the North Side of Chicago. But what follows is more expansive than a simple drive eastward; Smith is letting us eavesdrop on an illuminating meditation on time, place, friendship and family. ”

The New York Times Book Review

“On a two-week road trip, Smith reflects on her life, the choices she made or that were made for her, the people she lost, and the memories that remain.”

Sunset Magazine

More reviews »
Crossing the Plains with Bruno cover
  • Price: $17.95 buy »
  • Pages: 216
  • Size: 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
  • Published: Nov 2015
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595346698
  • B&W photos: 1
  • Price: $17.95
  • Pages: 216
  • Published: Nov 2015
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595346704


Memoir, Nature