Ever Faithful

Ever Faithful: A Vintage National Parks Novel by Karen Barnett

This novel set in Yellowstone National Park in 1933 has a wonderful sense of time and place. Nate Webber has dyslexia and can barely read, but loves to learn. Elsie Brooks, daughter of a park ranger, is saving money for college as a hotel maid in the park when she gets the chance to teach Nate’s Civilian Conservation Corps crew part-time. Elsie’s friends Mary and Rose welcome the chance of a summer romance, while a young park ranger is interested in Elsie, who’s hiding a secret of her own. The city boys of the CCC, many from New York City, find the hard work in the park challenging, but settle in quickly. A couple of small fires had me suspecting a character of arson, but this mildly inspirational story isn’t as predictable as I thought. Warm-hearted, relaxing, and thoroughly enjoyable, this trip back in time has me looking forward to reading Barnett’s other novels set in Yosemite and Mount Rainier National Parks.

Brenda

This Tender Land

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

The author of Ordinary Grace sets this adventure novel with echoes of Huckleberry Finn and The Odyssey in 1932 Minnesota and Missouri. Four kids head south in a canoe, fleeing loss and harsh treatment at the Lincoln Indian Training School. Odie and his older brother Albert are orphans heading to a barely remembered aunt in St. Louis, while young Emmy clings to Sioux teen Mose after she’s lost everything in a tornado. Mose is mute, and the group share an often secret sign language. They meet a healer with a revival tent show, a madam, traveling families and vagabonds, and find temporary haven in a soup kitchen and friendship in a Hoover town. Odie is a storyteller, Albert can fix most mechanical equipment, Mose goes on a vision quest, and young Emmy reminds an eccentric farmer of his missing daughter. Poignant and lyrically written, this story of an unlikely family on an epic journey has moments of conflict balanced with simple joys, unpredictable adventures, and the possibility of danger around every river bend. This remarkable character-driven novel is a compelling read.

Brenda

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Cussy Mary Carter, 19, is a pack horse librarian in the hills of eastern Kentucky in 1936. She is known as Book Woman or Bluet. Cussy is one of the last of the blue-skinned Fugates, and is treated as a colored person. Despite her coloring, her coal miner father wants to see Cussy married and provided for. Cussy and her mule deliver books, magazines, scrapbooks, and newspapers, along with letters and occasionally food to the isolated mountain folk on her route. Hope and heartbreak mingle here, and the story has some very dark scenes. The power of reading to inform, comfort, and enlighten is emphasized in this memorable and moving novel. Very well researched by the author, a Kentuckian, this book is a good choice for book groups interested in Depression-era America. I am looking forward to reading more about the pack horse librarians in The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyes, to be published this October.

Brenda