Today I get to share with you about a book that is right up there in my top five books of 2013 so far, Burning Sky, by Lori Benton.
From the Back of the Book:
Abducted by Mohawk Indians at fourteen and renamed Burning Sky, Willa Obenchain is driven to return to her family’s New York frontier homestead after many years building a life with the People. At the boundary of her father’s property, Willa discovers a wounded Scotsman lying in her path and she feels obliged to nurse his injuries. The two quickly find much has changed during Willa’s twelve-year absence—her childhood home is in disrepair, her missing parents are rumored to be Tories, and the young Richard Waring she once admired is now grown into a man twisted by the horrors of war and claiming ownership of the Obenchain land.
When her Mohawk brother arrives and questions her place in the white world, the cultural divide blurs Willa’s vision. Can she follow Tames-His-Horse back to the People now that she is no longer Burning Sky? And what about Neil MacGregor, the kind and loyal botanist who does not fit into her plan for a solitary life, yet is now helping her revive her farm? In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, strong feelings against “savages” abound in the nearby village of Shiloh, leaving Willa’s safety unsure.
Willa is a woman caught between two worlds. As tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart, the woman once called Burning Sky must find a new courage—the courage to again risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow. Is she brave enough to love again?
READ the first two chapters of Burning Sky
Okay. To be perfectly honest, this is not my favorite period in history to read about. I grew up on the mission field, and as a child, I saw first hand how indigenous people lived; Hollywood’s depiction of Indians and cowboys and missionaries never seemed genuine to me, and the activist groups of later years often came across as misinformed. Although I hate to admit it now, this childhood confusion translated into a growing disinterest for the history of America in general, but especially for the 18th and 19th century when so much was at stake for native Americans and settlers in the New World.
In fact, it was only after reading some fiction by the brilliant, but (ahem) NOT CBA, Diana Gabaldon, did I become intrigued by what was going on in our country during this time period, and my interest caught when I read the premise of Lori’s book. And when I learned that DG was endorsing Burning Sky, it only solidified my desire to read it.
Burning Sky starts both guarded and fragile, like a wounded bird taking flight for the first time. For those of you who prefer to be dropped into the middle of the gunfight in the first scene, you may need to just push on through, because it gets there, and it will be worth your time. But this is more like brewing that first cup of coffee in the morning, starting with fresh, dark roast (preferably Italian) whole beans. Open the bag, breathe in the earthy aroma, savor the deep, rich color, the sound of the beans pressing together into the grinder. Grind the beans, releasing even more intensity, then into the coffee maker, and wait impatiently as the house begins to fill with the heady bouquet of the nectar of the gods. Only then do you pour yourself a cup, wrap your hands around it, and bring it to your lips, making that long-awaited and much anticipated first sip a taste of heaven.
Hold on – I’ll be right back. I need to go get some coffee.
I’m back. But seriously, that’s how Lori’s book was for me. In her engaging voice, she slowly peels back the layers of Willa’s story in a way that’s consistent with wounded, but terrifyingly strong people. She brings into her story two remarkably good men from two remarkably different worlds, but then teaches us, her readers, to love and respect them both for their differences. This story unwraps the gut-wrenching truths about the differences in life-styles, priorities, and customs of different cultures in a way that prevents us from taking sides, mainly because Lori seems to have captured both the good and bad of people in general, regardless of color, culture, or faith.
But speaking of faith, it is this that moves me to tears most often throughout this book. There is something transcendentally glorious about the most humble when that person is grounded in faith. As the characters unfold, as their stories are told, it’s their faith that steers them, even when they can’t see it themselves, which, in turn, tells me much about Lori and her faith.
I highly, highly recommend this book. I came away moved, with my thoughts holding on to the characters long after the last page was read.
Burning Sky releases on August 6th, but it’s available for pre-order at all major online bookstores – see the links on Lori’s website.
About Lori Benton:
Lori Benton was born and raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American and family history going back to the 1600s. Her novels transport readers to the 18th century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history, creating a melting pot of characters drawn from both sides of a turbulent and shifting frontier, brought together in the bonds of God’s transforming grace.
When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching 18th century history, Lori enjoys exploring the mountains with her husband – often scouring the brush for huckleberries, which overflow the freezer and find their way into her signature huckleberry lemon pound cake.