The best description of this book I can think of is a Western Plus. What I mean by that is that there is a strong element of historical fiction, focusing on the period where much of the West was still pre-state territories–around the mid-1800’s. If I could tack on a subtitle to this book it might be ‘The Making of a Man.’
Still, that tagline doesn’t quite fit. There are actually two men who come face to face, and the contrast is stark. One is pompous and proud, unfriendly to a fault, arrogant, a cattle rancher from Texas. His name says it all, Big Bob Stanton. His life theme seems to be: trample or be trampled. The main character is from Arizona, a former deputy sheriff, a talented gunman who hung up his belt, invested in a small ranch and lived a life of a good neighbor, helping others handle the hardships of life, hard-working, tough as steel and yet humble and friendly.
There is a face off, staged by one of the worst blizzards in 1888. In history, this blizzard was known as the Children’s Blizzard or the Schoolhouse Blizzard, because it came on in mild January temperatures while children were just being released from schools across the territory. Winds kicked up 50-foot mountains of drifts and temperatures dropped suddenly to 40 below zero F with nearly no visibility during the high winds. Hundreds died, many of them children on the walk home, with heroic stories of teachers saving some of their children.
The horrors of this storm is the pivotal point of the story. It’s where the focus is on the character development of two men and their people. This is where the story becomes riveting. While the outcome of this showdown is fairly obvious from the beginning, it’s how it is fleshed out that makes the story worth experiencing while reading. The author is meticulous enough in the details of ranch living in the Old West to make this read fascinating without becoming as dry as sawdust. Those are signs to me of a great storyteller, a great writer.
On top of those characteristics, the story is chuckle worthy. It’s not a funny tale, because the hardships of living in that time period keep out such ill-timed humor, but the book was filled with moments I could chuckle over. Tongue in cheek statements, moments of the ridiculous, sarcastic observations are all appreciated with a bit of dry wit.
This is a man’s western, written from a man’s point of view and with an intended audience of men who enjoy a good historical fiction. I’m not a man, but I enjoyed this book anyway. There were plenty of serious moments and even tragedies, but it has a great ending, filled with hope for the future, the satisfaction of overcoming a huge obstacle. I think women can enjoy this book too. There is even a hint at a romance.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from CKN Christian Publishing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. 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.”