A farming family endures and thrives in Texas during the second half of the 19th century.
In this debut Christian historical novel, Ricotta tells the story of the Caldwell family, beginning with patriarch Mason’s departure to fight for the Confederacy in 1861. Mason’s wife, Lydia, and the Caldwell children keep the farm going until Mason returns from war, severely wounded. The postwar years are a time of physical and emotional healing as Mason recovers from his injury and reconnects with his now-adult children. The family expands as neighbors and in-laws become integral parts of the Caldwell circle. The Caldwells face challenges, from violent criminals to a corrupt sheriff and Mason’s war wounds, but triumph over their obstacles through love and faith. Elements of Texas history, particularly the founding of the postwar Texas Rangers, drive much of the story, along with classic elements of the Western, including settlers headed toward the California gold fields, an out-of-control gambler, and posses chasing both justice and vengeance. The cast of characters is notably diverse, including the son of an American missionary and her Chinese husband, a half-Cherokee man looking for a fresh start in ranching, a former slave who helps Mason come to terms with his injury, and a beautiful girl determined to fend for herself from her wheelchair. The depictions are not without their missteps and stereotypes (“He had never been able to get close to anyone because of constant rejection as a half-breed”; a gay character is welcomed only if he remains celibate), but they bring a modern vibrancy and variety often missing from stories of the settling of the West. While the use of dialect can be excessive (“It sure would be grand if’n I could find a gal so fine and have a dandy party like this”) and the prose uneven, the fast-moving plot and compelling characters keep the reader engaged and balance out the limitations of the narrative.
A modern take on the Western novel, driven by well-defined characters and a plot both spirited and sweeping.