A tale of stunning textures, sights, sounds, and the warm richness of a very nearly true story; I was enveloped in Lori Benton’s The Wood’s Edge.
Having read Benton’s The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn (see review here), I was more eager to read her next work of authentic characters, strong storytelling, descriptions you can feel and hear and smell, and a fully satisfying and believable outcome.
As many of you know, I am a passionate fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and I would heartily place Benton’s work in that same category. Her caliber of description, coupled with her uncanny ability to make you feel the character’s cuts and bruises and yearnings, make not only The Wood’s Edge but The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn completely enthralling. This type of historical fiction is so vivid that when you set the book down, you have a few moments of culture shock, realizing you are again back in your own time, as though you truly have lived in this historical time.
This story was certainly risky, opening with a stolen child of mixed race, a woman’s devastating inability to conceive, the description ofMajor Reginald Aubrey living with years of guilt due to living with this secret, and some openly anti-Christian sentiments. However, Benton works to weave in the and bring the reader closer to Anna, Good Voice, Lydia, Reginald, Two Hawks, William, and Stone Thrower. It’s hard to manage a cast of such disparate characters, and for me, the characters of Stone Thrower, Good Voice, Anna, and Lydia emerged most strongly.
I would particularly recommend this book to anyone interested in early America, Native Americans, and the Appalachian Mountains. There’s plenty of action, although the story does move slower at some points, and it takes place over years, during which can be hard for the reader to wait for reconciliation. Still, reconciliation does take time, and these wounds are heavy and deep; I believe Benton gave the story the length it needed. It’s clear Benton has done vast research on the Oneida tribe in particular, and the voices and traditions of that beautiful culture danced on the pages for me, making it accessible to me in a way I’ve never seen prior to now. This is the type of story that would make an epic movie, with each person’s struggles starkly set against the sweeping, harsh, untamed American landscape.