I admire authors like Jan Watson who can somehow lay aside the present cultural influences and nuances and immerse themselves in the past, populate that world with people who live and breathe in our minds and hearts, and allow us to share in this created world. How do they do that? I love the authors who write contemporary fiction works that come alive as well, but there’s a special place in my heart for writers who dig into the past and then give it to us as if they had just walked the streets themselves and carried on conversations with the characters. They write with authenticity and reality and make the past come alive. I’ve discovered that Ms. Watson, a new author for me, accomplishes this very well.
Buttermilk Sky is a turn-of-the-century tale that follows Jan Watson’s previous historical novels: Tattler’s Branch, Skip Rock Shallows, Still House Pond, Sweetwater Run, and the Troublesome Creek series which includes Troublesome Creek, Willow Springs, and Torrent Falls. The book stands completely on its own although reading her other books would deepen the atmosphere and heighten our appreciation of the sub-culture captured in these books.
Young Sheriff Chanis Clay is following in his father’s rather large shoes as peacekeeper and law enforcement officer in a Kentucky mountain county and specifically the community of Skip Rock. He loves his work, but has much to learn about human nature and life in general. Still, he feels he’s ready to settle down and has his heart fixed on Mazy Pelfrey for his life’s companion. He loves her and all his dreams and goals include her. He even bought a house and started its renovation. But Mazy is not ready to commit herself to marriage yet. She feels restless and unsettled; she wants to experience a bit of life first. So Mazy leaves her family, her twin, her beau, and her mountain community to live in Lexington, take a secretarial course and make some new friends. Most of this story focuses on Mazy as she tries to find her place as a single girl in life.
This book was a fun, quick read for me. The author sprinkles in plenty of humor and laughs for both Chanis and Mazy in their separate worlds. The sheriff deals with incidences among the mountain folk with amusing tongue-in-cheek wit. My favorite episode was when he nearly lost Frank Cheney, a giant of a man turned bank robber, when transporting him from one community’s jail to another nearby jail. Eventually, Chanis’ dealing with Frank literally changed his life. Mazy’s way of adapting to city life, trying new foods, wearing new clothes, all the while trying not to look like a country bumpkin, is often rib tickling.
At first, Mazy appeared to me to be a shallow, unthinking piece of fluff, content to imitate everyone else and gain favor with her study group’s leader, Eva, no matter what it took. But eventually she realized the futility of her efforts, and the real Mazy emerged. The Mazy of the final chapters was a 180 degree turn-around from the Mazy of the beginning of the story. Her journey from first to last is what makes this book great reading for women.
Finally, as a faith-based read, the author includes many thought-provoking moments of revelation for both the main characters, without being preachy. Character development and faith in God with all its practical implications were woven together seamlessly throughout the book. A real, vital relationship with God should be as natural as breathing. The author demonstrates this in her writings. It is something I greatly appreciate among authors I read the most. I am looking forward to reading more books by this author.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley on behalf of Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”