Dallas (Tallgrass, 2007, etc.) offers another of her signature western heartwarmers, complete with knitting circle, this time set in a Colorado gold-mining town.
In 1936, Hennie Comfort, who has lived in Middle Swan for 70 years, befriends newcomer Nit Spindle, whose husband has just been hired on a local dredge boat (the work is brutal and dangerous). Octogenarian Hennie feels an immediate kinship with 17-year-old Nit. Both are from Southern border states, both married as teens and both lost a child—Nit is currently mourning the loss of her stillbirth daughter; Hennie’s birth daughter drowned as a toddler. They both quilt and Hennie, a founding member of the Ten-Mile Quilters, invites Nit to join the circle. Since Hennie will be leaving Middle Swan soon to live with her adopted daughter in Iowa, she decides to pass on to Nit all of her stories about the various characters who have inhabited Middle Swan. The 1936 plot—the two women’s evolving friendship, Nit’s new pregnancy, Hennie’s romance with an old friend, even her forgiveness of a man who did her wrong long ago—is not much more than a backdrop for the stories Hennie tells about the past. Hennie’s own history comes in pieces: Orphaned and then cheated out of her inheritance as a young girl, she married her beloved Billy at 14. After Billy was forced to go off to fight for the Confederacy against his will, a local bully terrorized Hennie and inadvertently caused her baby’s death. After the Civil War ended, leaving Hennie a widow, a newly married friend invited her to Colorado for a very long-distance blind date with the man who became Hennie’s beloved if imperfect second husband, Jake. While traveling west, Hennie found an abandoned baby she and Jake raised as their own daughter, Mae. Despite a few surprise coincidences, the book offers little suspense, yet readers will be glad Dallas’s likable heroines get their happy endings.
Forgiveness and redemption are the themes of this gentle novel about hardscrabble lives.