Friday, October 06, 2006

A Reason to Live by Maureen McKade

I love a good Western. I keep hearing that there is no market for Westerns but if they were all written as well as ARTL then the demand by readers would be overwhelming. I picked up this book on Wendy's recommendation and I'm so glad I did because this is a heart wrenching and emotional book. Get out your tissues, ladies.

As a nurse for the Confederacy, Laurel Covey kept a journal in which she recorded all the deathbed messages of the soldiers who died in her care. Now that the war between the states is over she feels obligated to contact each family to relay those messages and keepsakes.

Laurel is one of the strongest characters I have ever read. She sets out alone across the post Civil War South with no thought to her own safety to contact each family. The reader quickly realizes that she doesn't care what happens to herself. The horrible memories of attending a battlefield hospital continue to haunt her. She experiences flashbacks during the day of the blood, sounds, smells, and ghosts of the men who died and vivid nightmares visit her nightly. She thinks she is going crazy and hopes to finish her quest before she is committed to a mental hospital. But today we recognize these symptoms as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was impressed with how realistically McKade portrayed her condition. The doctor's suggested treatment of a hysterectomy as a cure for her mental state seemed barbaric but realistic for that time period.

Creede Forrester is an ex-gunslinger whose son, Austin, has died in the War. He travels from Texas to Virginia hoping to find out more about his son's death. A doctor tells him that Laurel may know something more, so he seeks her out and comes across her as she is being robbed and rescues her. He finds out that Laurel was there when his son died but unfortunately Austin was dead when he arrived at the field hospital so left no last words for his father. Creede is crushed but insists upon riding along with Laurel against her wishes on her journey to keep her safe.

As they journey through the ruined South, Laurel and Creede meet all kinds of human and animal characters that were excellently portrayed. If you're a cat lover, you'll fall in love with the stray cat who adopts Laurel on her journey. They meet a little black boy and some former slaves that tore my heart out. In fact they meet lots of people, some good, some bad, and McKade portrays them without Southern character stereotyping. Each family member had a different reaction to the message she passed on from their loved one. Some were grateful, some devastated, some angry, some with no emotion at all. These scenes were often painful to read.

Laurel and Creede are both very wounded people and are drawn to each other. As they travel from Virginia to Texas finding all the families they develop a growing bond and start to open up to each other. Love blossoms slowly culminating in some intense love scenes.

Although post-Civil War America is a very depressing, painful time in history, Laurel and Creede's story is a powerful one of hope and healing. And the book's title.... absolutely perfect.

My grade A-

9 comments:

Rosie said...

Renee, I bought this on Wendy's rec as well. I very much enjoyed the book too. In fact, I bought TO FIND YOU AGAIN at my UBS and recently read it. It too was a good read.

Nikki said...

I just finished a book and couldn't figure out what to read next. You helped me decide. I am picking this up right now. I love McKade. She is an amazing talent. Great review, Renee!

ReneeW said...

Rosie: This was my first McKade and I was impressed. I feel a glom coming on. I'll look for TFYA. Thanks.

Nikki: I don't think you'll be disappointed. I just discovered her. Forgot to mention that this is the first book in a trilogy. I'll be looking for the next one when it comes out.

Kristie (J) said...

Great review. I finally found this one and I'm looking forward to reading it soon - as soon as I finish TFYA. I saw that this one is the first of a trilogy and was ecstatic that there will be more!

CindyS said...

I could have sworn I bought this book but I don't see it in the new TBR pile so I'm putting it on the TBB list. I normally have a hard time with this era but I like the premise of the story so would like to have a crack at it.

Cindy

ReneeW said...

Kristie: I had heard good things about McKade and was pleasantly surprised at what a buried treasure she is. I'll have to go find TFYA.

Cindy: Yes, this era is rather depressing but this book was great. Well worth adding to your TBR.

Dylan said...

Great review sweetie, I'm adding this to my list of books to read, buy and devour soon! I'm in a western mood lately...=)

ReneeW said...

Dylan: This one has received lots of buzz and very deserving too. Hope you like it :)

Kyahgirl said...

this sounds great! I've never read anything by her so will check it out.

I've just gone through a huge historical (England/Scotland) glom so welcome a change of scenery.

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