Literary Reviews, 190

A Killing Snow, by David Hoing and Roger Hileman (Continued)

Phoebe's late husband had been an army surgeon during the war. She had sometimes accompanied him as a civilian aide. Her moving journal account of the death during the Battle of Gettysburg of a Confederate soldier greatly impresses Mariel in light of her journalistic aspirations. She later urges Mike Hammon to share his wartime exploits, especially his ordeal at Andersonville and his daring escape, that she knows Goss had been hankering to print to no avail as Hammon stubbornly refuses to open up about that period of his eventful life.

As the Ericksons acclimate to their new surroundings, Mariel is delighted with an offer by Mayor Goss to become the town's new schoolmarm, a position in which she has experience. As the Hammons are living at the hotel while managing it, they generously offer their own house for the school. Mariel is urged by the town's women folk to join their Fragment Society, a charity that ostensibly sews clothes for the destitute but which Mariel soon learns to her dismay is little more than a gossip society. She has frequent run-ins with the other ladies due to their obvious prejudice against Indians and the Irish, most especially an Irish immigrant couple with a ponderous brood of children. As a result, she has the first of a series of run-ins with Hartwig's wife Louisa which threatens her professional position. Hartwig had taken a violent dislike to Liam and Bridget Blackford and their thirteen kids. The Blackfords are not just Irish Catholics, but also Travelers, indigenous Irish who lead Gypsy-like existences in the old sod. Like Gypsies, they have an unsavory reputation for thefts and scams. However, after having lost a child (of which Mariel learns of in a manner which she finds both macabre and traumatic considering her own family's past), the Blackfords decided to break with the old ways and now seek to homestead in the new land. Liam Blackford is somewhat mysterious as to how he manages to support his prodigious family, a question that eventually might be answered by the appearance in town of another newcomer of a seemingly sinister bent named Cowan whom Liam Blackford introduces as his cousin notwithstanding the former being Scottish, a claim regarded dubiously by others. The friction engendered between the interactions of Hartwig and Blackford ultimately boils over into a sensational crime (for the era and place) and a trial that threatens to turn scandalous in the hands of a respected defense attorney.

The novel unfolds as an intriguing slice of period Americana on the plains. The reader is treated to historically accurate descriptions of an Indian reservation, a Jesuit mission and missionaries; the trials and tribulations of small town people trying to survive in often adverse circumstances in an unforgiving climatic environment long before central heating and indoor plumbing. Click to continue:

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