Monday, November 17, 2014
BLEEDING KANSAS by SARA PARETSKY
When I saw Sara Paretsky's name at a book sale, I automatically picked up the book. I had read all of her V. I. Warshawski series and loved every volume. This was a stand-alone: I put it in my bag, confident that it would be a great read. It turned out to have nothing to do with the bleeding Kansas of John Brown and the fight over whether Kansas would be a slave state or free. Okay, I thought, let's see what it is about and I'm glad I went ahead and read it.
The story concerns a farming community where three families have lived and worked the land for generations. The Grelliers, Jim, Susan, and their children Chip and Lara, love the land and try to be good neighbors. The Schapens, Myra the grandmother, Arnie the father whose wife left him, and sons Junior and Robbie are avid adherents of a church that makes fundamentalist churches look downright liberal. In between the Grelliers and the Schapens is the Fremantle house. Old Mrs. Fremantle has died and a relative, Gina Haring, moves in. Haring claims to be wiccan and she brings along her friend, a woman who runs a store in town that sells all kinds of suspicious things connected with wiccans.
Gina Haring's appearance sets off a kind of war. A lesbian who celebrates strange holiday rituals? Myra's blog (that everyone reads even if they won't admit it) is full of ridiculous claims. Then a Schapen cow gives birth to a red calf and city ultra-orthodox Jewish elders arrive and say it's the perfect calf for a ceremony to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, the Schapen family has visions of wealth beyond belief.
All of this plus a teenage bully, a handicapped boy, young people in a forbidden love results in an explosive atmosphere that you know will have a bad ending. As much as I love the V.I. Warshawski series, this is my favorite Sara Paretsky novel.
Maybe it's because I'm from the Midwest (not Kansas), the characters are familiar ones to me. Well, except for the Schapens who are an exaggeration of midwestern types to make a point. Paretsky grew up in Kansas and she remembers those people clearly.
Source: book sale