The last week of January, and I have already finished two books. Good going for me.
Cindy Bruchman is one of my oldest and dearest blogging friends. For some reason, I had never got around to buying a copy of her first novel, something I rectified as soon as I got my new Kindle Fire tablet. To start with, here is my five-star review, on Amazon.
‘Ms Bruchman sets her novel in an historical period rarely explored. Based around true events at the turn of the century (1900-) and actual places which are well-researched, and carefully described. But it is with the characters she impresses the most. A disparate mix who come across each other, and are then woven together throughout the story.
Young orphans, Annette and Jon, departing for an uncertain future as potential adoptees. A black man fleeing from the law. A Catholic priest who has a high opinion of himself, and a farm hand who offers the chance of escape to the unhappy Annette.
The way they meet and interact forms the heart of the tale. Their talents, their hopes and fears, and their love for the animals featured too. In under 200 pages, the backstories are also filled in very nicely, and any sympathetic reader will soon be totally invested in them, following their lives with a desire to know the outcome.
This is first-rate historical fiction, populated by characters I believed in, and locations that are brought to life on the page’.
That gives you a good idea what the book is about, but without adding plot spoilers, it is hard to convey just how well this book takes the reader on a journey. From the first chapter, I was quickly immersed in the characters, and wanted to know how things turned out for them. One in particular, the mutilated black man, Casper, really got under my skin. Cindy sets this book in an America that is unfamiliar to me, both in the historical period, and because I have never been to that country. But I was there; under the trees, in the back of carts, or riding in the goods wagons of trains heading to new places.
There is also an undeniable spiritual aspect to the story. A young priest who learns to deal with the harsh realities of his role in a poverty-stricken community, while also questioning his suppressed sexual desires. The connection between a brother and sister across time and space, and how natural talent in the arts can be inspired by events beyond control.
From the orphanage in New York, to the cornfields of the mid-west, and the bleak mining towns in between, we are taken on a tour of a part of America after 1900, beautifully described in just enough detail to place ourselves on those very spots with the characters. Racism and lynchings, poor working conditions for low pay, and the bleak future of ordinary people in very different times. It is all there, amazingly packed into less than 200 pages.
And that actual Knife With The Ivory Handle? Oh yes, it is included, with a deft touch indeed.
I am certainly looking forward to Cindy’s next book.
Here is a link to Cindy’s book, which is available in a Kindle edition too. (I read that version)
And this is a link to her own excellent blog.
Please check out this book, if the story interests you. And stop by her blog for more great writing!