by Nina Vida
Here's the write-up from the back of the book:
Joseph, a Polish-Jewish schoolteacher, has become a rancher by chance. He marries Katrin, an orphaned immigrant from Alsace, to save her from an Indian chief, but he becomes obsessed with Aurelia, a Mexican girl who may be a witch. Together with two runaway slaves, and assorted Comanches, Tonkaways, and vaqueros, they struggle to settle in Texas.
The story is set in the mid-1800s and follows this disparate group who face many challenges making a place for themselves in the rugged plains of Texas.
The book starts out with Aurelia whose father earns money by selling healings. It seems young Aurelia can heal just by looking in the ill person's eyes. Then we leave Aurelia for awhile and are introduced to Joseph Kimmel. Both are interesting characters with human foibles and flaws, but very likeable. At least for most of the book. My heart ached for Katrin, though. None of these people had easy lives, but I thought Katrin silently endured the most.
I liked this description of Joseph - He hadn't made many friends at the school, preferring to be left alone with his books. It wasn't that he disliked people. It was more that with his somber personality, there was no sense inflicting himself on others.
Another time Joseph is visiting with a man named Castro, who tells him that he's done a good thing by helping so many people. Joseph's reply - I don't know that I have. I've been circumspect all my life. Unencumbered. solitary. Somehow I've lost sight of that in Texas. I've ruined my life. I'm a fool, an idiot caught by my own conscience and trapped by sympathies I never knew I had and I'm too stubborn to change my mind.
And when Joseph first met Captain Dawson, a Texas Ranger. Dawson kept talking even though he was reaching for the door knob and Joseph thought to himself - Some men just needed to linger, even when they were ready to go and there was nothing more for them to do. Isaac was like that. Joseph used to tell him that he'd get a lot more sewing done if he would't talk so much to his customers. You can fit them for their suits and talk to them at the same time, Joseph would tell him, but why do you have to keep talking when they're ready to leave and you can see in their eyes that they've got places to go? Why do you have to tell strangers everything you know in the world? Captain Dawson looked at Joseph that way now, as if he were going to plub his memory all the way back to the day he was born, was going to tell Joseph what the weather was like that day and how many glasses of water his mother drank before she squeezed him out.
I loved this book! And highly recommend it. I remember wondering during the first 30 pages if this was going to be a book I liked, but as the events progressed I found myself totally engrossed. And I loved the writing. It seemed to fit this place in history. I thought about holding a giveaway for this book but decided instead to pass it along to my mother.