Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bleeding Kansas by Sara Paretsky

Bleeding Kansas is a story set in modern day Kansas but the families have roots going back several generations, to the 1850’s. There are four main families in this story. They all have farms close to each other. The two main ones are the Grelliers and the Schapens. The Schapens are mean and bullies. Myra gossips about all the neighbors and as gossip usually goes, most of it isn’t true or she tends to bend the truth a bit to make it sound worse than it is. The Grelliers and good folk who just want to live their life. The parents tend not to gossip but the kids do. The Grellier mother is also a bit eccentric. The other families that come into play are the Fremantles and the Burtons. The Fremantles themselves aren’t really in the story but their property is. Their house used to be grand but has fallen into ruin. One of the Fremantles niece’s comes to stay at the house. She is a Wiccan and also happens to be a lesbian. This, of course, stirs up the Schapens.
The Grelliers have to children, Chip and Lara. The Schapens also have two children, Junior and Robbie. Junior is the worst bully there is but Robbie is a good kid. Chip and his mother start butting heads and fighting a lot. The mother joins an anti-war group and gets arrested while at a protest. Chip gets suspended from school for fighting with Junior and he ends up joining the army and being killed in Iraq (don’t believe this is a spoiler since it’s in the reviews on amazon and other places). When this happens, the Grellier’s lives get turned upside down. The mother is depressed and stays in her room all day, barely eating. Lara’s grades slip in school and she is having a tough time of things. Jim, the father, is trying to deal with both his wife and daughter and take care of the farm. Of course he is also grieving the loss of his sun. While this is going on, the Schapens have breed a cow that the Jews believe is a sign of God that they need to rebuild their temple. This causes some outrage in the community, not just because women aren’t allowed near the cow, but also because of all the religious groups and what this means to their belief. While this is going on, Lara and Robbie come together and find they really like each other. However, they have to hide from everyone because the Schapens wouldn’t approve.
Lots going on in this book. I probably make it sound chaotic but the book puts it all together nicely. I admit that at first it was confusing with all the different families and the names; it took me a bit to get it all straight in my head. However, once I did that the story was pretty smooth going. Note that I am a city girl and never lived in a farming community. That being said, I thought most of the story seems pretty believable. I think the character who was a lesbian Wiccan was probably a big eccentric and not something that would happen in most farming communities, but the rest I thought could very well happen. I’m sure there are many farming communities with feuding families. The things that happened seemed believable. Overall, I really enjoyed the story. I was interested in the characters and wanted to know what was going to happen to their stories. I’ve never read anything by the author but after reading this one, I’m very interested in her other work.

Fiction/new author/431pgs

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