This broad, sweeping novel presents four generations of ranchers living, working and dying in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.
Mann (Last Ranch, 2007) has strong ties to the land and history of western Canada. Her first novel details her family’s efforts to revitalize their historical ranch in the region. This novel opens in 1870, a time when the West had yet to be won. Hard work coupled with favorable weather conditions might yield a healthy living for young men willing to take a risk on land and cattle. Charles Donovan and Dan Greenwood, two cattle drovers, settle on nearby ranches: the CD Ranch and the Circle G Ranch. They start families, battle the elements and grudgingly embrace progress while alternately suffering setbacks and enjoying the fruits of their labor. But, as times change, the tale continues far beyond the lives of these men to follow the plight of three generations of their descendants, whose lives are dramatically affected by cultural shifts and several world wars. Like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, many characters are attached to their own “Tara” in a visceral way; they appreciate the beauty and romance of the valley, albeit not with the same connection to the land that Charles and Dan once had. Concluding in 1985, the novel’s scope is impressive, as is the historical research apparent in descriptions of technology and trends through the decades: the Native American occupation; the division of ranches and farmland into smaller orchards; the development of rudimentary irrigation systems and modern farming equipment; and the scarcity of male laborers during wartime. Mann admirably tackles the transitions through each wave of change, highlighting the increasingly important role of women in a previously male-dominated world. Although Mann strives to give each new player a distinguishing plotline while providing helpful reminders of the relationships between them, the sheer number of characters and interconnected families is overwhelming. Perhaps dividing the two sections—The Aquisitors (1870–1945) and The Endurers (1946–1985)—into separate novels would offer readers a bit of relief. Regardless, Mann paints a praiseworthy examination of Canadian history and family loyalty.
A big, bold and brassy celebration of the West, ideal for dedicated readers.