A widowed minister, fleeing the scandal of a forbidden affair, relocates from Massachusetts to Colorado with his teenage daughters in this historical novel set in the 1860s.
In their elegant Boston home, 15-year-old identical twins Lily and Rose Wright eavesdrop on an astounding conversation and learn that their widowed father, the Rev. Daniel Wright, has impregnated Rachel Decker, a congregation member who’s married to a physically abusive man. To keep the matter contained, church elders send Daniel to set up a new church in the frontier town of Gold Creek, Colorado. Surprisingly, Lily and Rose, whom Daniel can’t even tell apart, want to go with him rather than stay with their affluent maternal grandmother. The three Wrights thus set off on a several-week-long pioneering journey, during which they forge new friendships and encounter buffalo and Native Americans. The sisters often alarm their uptight father by riding astride horses or joyfully dancing, but at one point, they also save his life. After the Wrights arrive in Gold Creek, they find themselves particularly drawn to the local Fairdale family, even though the latter’s patriarch espouses transcendental instead of traditional religious views. By novel’s end, Daniel reunites with Rachel (who fled to a relative’s house after her husband was admitted to a hospital for insanity) and his son and learns to embrace a wider perspective; Lily and Rose, meanwhile, adjust their close personal bond as they both find adult loves. Starsong (Never Again, 2015, etc.) delivers an intense historical novel that effectively conveys the Wrights’ full flowering, along with some Freudian undertones. Daniel, in particular, is a striking study of repressed desire; Starsong even includes a scene in which he shamefully ogles his naked daughters. Although the pathos of Daniel’s story, which includes moments of wailing and direct communication with God, occasionally threatens to engulf the novel, the author also manages to skillfully relate a number of other story arcs in addition to his, including the sisters’ individual awakenings and a sweet subplot involving a gentle carpenter and a young prostitute.
A sweeping melodrama of the frontier.