An affecting story about one man’s quest to transcend his troubled past.


From This Valley

A young soldier, shortly after the Civil War, abandons his regiment to explore the northern Canadian territory and its dangerous prairie lands in this debut historical novel.

Ryan Price Meade has an illicit romance with Priscilla, the daughter of his family’s black butler. After Ryan’s father discovers the situation, he immediately banishes him from the homestead, and he’s sent to serve in the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry Regiment under the command of a distant relation. Following the Civil War, he’s reassigned to a unit under the command of George Armstrong Custer, an idol of his for years. But Custer turns out to be a brutal warrior, and Ryan is horrified when the man orders the massacre of a Native American tribe, including women and children, at the Battle of Washita River. Disillusioned and tortured by his memory of the battle, Ryan flees his post and sets out for Canada. He stumbles upon a sergeant from the North West Mounted Police who’s traveling with a half-Native American, and they help him prepare for a perilous journey through near-lawless lands occupied by hostile warriors, bandits, and unscrupulous traders. Then Ryan receives a tragic epistle from his former butler. Overwhelmed by grief, he rejects the possibility of returning home to join the family business and sets out on his own in search of solitude, more than anything else. Along the way, he meets a young Cheyenne girl he saved during the Washita massacre. The two fall in love, travel to her mother’s clan, and make a new life. Later, Ryan wrestles with a lifetime of demons but remains open to the possibility of new love, peace, and redemption. Author Harvey warns readers in a preface that he plays fast and loose with historical fact. That said, he does a marvelous job of evoking the spirit of the period, particularly in his depictions of the complex relations between whites, blacks, and Native Americans. Over the course of the story, Ryan suffers from Job-like losses, and the sources of his profound discontent sometimes seem too extraordinary and sudden to be believable. His internal tumult, though, set against the volatility of an evolving and unsettled world, is painted with powerful and vivid brush strokes throughout.

An affecting story about one man’s quest to transcend his troubled past.

Pub Date: April 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-8098-0

Page Count: 312

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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