Monday, July 7, 2014

Grace and the Guiltless by Erin Johnson

Here's something unusual:  A western written for young adults.  It's also very good!

Capstone and Net Galley allowed me to read this book for review (thank you).  It will be published August 1st.  I was so impressed with it I've pre-ordered a copy for my library.

Grace has a family and a farm home and lots of love in her life.  But there's a big landowner in the area that wants her father's land.  When her father refuses to sell, the man and his gang (along with one woman) come in ready to take it by force.  Grace is in the root cellar getting more vegetables for the soup when she hears gunshots.  She peeks out and sees her family being shot or knifed to death.  She can do nothing and if they see her, they will kill her.  All she can do is wait for them to go and then go in to rescue the baby.  They set the farm on fire and leave.  It's the last straw for Grace when the baby dies, too.

She becomes filled with vengeance and makes up her mind she's going to make them pay.  She heads out into the hills, trying to track them.  She's young, has no food, knows nothing about survival and almost dies in her journey.  First a Reverend helps hers and tells her to go to the next farm.  They'd take her in and she could do chores for her keep.  She thanks him, heads that way until he's out of sight, and then she's back on her hunt.  She'd almost been raped in town before she started her hunt so she knows it's a tough world.  When she collapses the second time after eating pokeberries (poisonous), her rescuer in town shows up again.  He takes her to an Indian camp.  She thinks she's going to die for sure.

I enjoyed reading about her life with the Indians.  Her savior was half-Indian.  He grew up with the Indians he took her to for treatment.  The old shaman kept her alive, but it was close.  The Indians work hard on trying to get her to forgive the transgressions and not let revenge eat her heart and soul.  She listens, but she doesn't change.

When she gets an opportunity to get even with one of them, he's trying to rape a saloon girl, so she feels it justified.  Her Indian friend is proud of her for defending the girl but sad because it's now given Grace a new goal.  She's going to be a bounty hunter.  Whoever heard of a 15 year old girl being a bounty hunter?  Grace thinks it will give her an advantage.

I hope this author requests another book in this series.  It's a well-written western that really depicts the early west without softening any of bad parts.  I felt Grace's pain, her Indian friend's attachment to her, and her willingness to sacrifice all to avenge her family.  I'm ready to travel with Grace on her new journey.  And I want to know who the woman was that was at the killing...

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