Set in the mid-1950s in rural Wyoming, Hardpan tells the journey of a young ranch family grappling with the fierce forces of nature and the changing American West after World War II.
The author grew up on her grandparents' ranch in Jordan Valley, Oregon, serious cattle country and home to Basque sheepherders, until spring 1954 when her family moved to an even bigger cattle ranch in Clark, Wyoming. Therein lies the setting and stimulus for Lanier's first novel, Hardpan.
Returning from the war to manage the family ranch in eastern Oregon, Kurt Glover confronts familial challenges to his new role. Yet, Kurt's decision to relocate his family to a remote cattle ranch in Wyoming introduces risks to his young family that he never imagined.
It is a tale of external forces tearing at the ranching roots of a family, recounted from the points-of-view of the father, Kurt, and his older daughter, Linda. With the disintegration of the life they have known together, while Linda is thrust into the glamour world of televised wrestling, instant religion, and people desperate to reclaim a daughter they have lost through a tragic accident, her father is struggling to reestablish himself as the family breadwinner by taking on jobs in central California that are foreign to his upbringing.