CBR15PASSPORT (Stamp #9: New to me author)
CBR15BINGO (North America square: about homesteading in Wyoming)
When I saw a “highly recommend” quote on this book cover from Paulette Jiles that was all I needed to pull it from the library shelf. Note to self: I need to be a bit more wary of author endorsement quotes on book covers. It has taken me too long to learn that lesson the hard way.
Looking for excitement and a challenge, a young woman moves from Iowa to the Wyoming prairie to accept a teaching job. Expecting tree-covered mountains, she instead found unrelenting flat land with little vegetation, a room in the home of a battered wife, snakes, and winters that could kill you in minutes. The silver lining to this you may ask? A strapping cowboy who immediately falls in love with her. What should have followed was an epic love that was foreshadowed in the first chapter. An epic love that would give the main characters some depth and carry the reader through the insurmountable hardships of prairie life. An epic love story surrounded by richly developed townsfolk and nearest neighbors. A book that could have been but was not.
Believe it or not, I’m not trying to sound harsh here. I’m just annoyed and disappointed by yet another book, that could have delivered but didn’t. I am on a string of books full of unfulfilled potential and it has made me cranky. I will also admit to some clouded judgment because I have read some fantastically written books lately and coming down from those can easily make other books pale in comparison. Also, I positively HATE giving number ratings to books. Do you rate by enjoyment? Literary merit? It’s tough. I decided a while back to just go with how much I enjoyed reading the book (and that goes for sad, scary, and tough-to-read books, not just guilty pleasures) rather than on a scale of this-could-be- shortlisted-for-Booker. However, when I rate a sexy fairy shenanigans novel at 5 and something like this at 3 I feel a little ashamed. If a writer can make me care about fully developed characters plopped into a richly drawn world no matter how many fairies, shenanigans, or eye-rolling plot points, I shouldn’t feel kind of dirty handing out a 3 to a book like this. But, here we are.
I haven’t read a ton of Westerns or historical fiction about Western expansion, but the ones that I have read have been glorious: Annie Dillard’s The Living and pretty much anything written by Paulette Jiles. Give me landscape as a character and I’m hooked. While there was a little of that here, there wasn’t enough to offset the unrelenting sadness. It may have been an accurate portrayal of what prairie life in Wyoming in the early 1900s was like, but it didn’t make for a compelling story. I needed that unrelenting sadness to be offset by the epic love I was promised in chapter one.