The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton
When I set this book to finished on my Goodreads account I wrote “Simply amazing! Full review to follow in a few days.” This book was that good! Wonderful, really.
Opening with the fall of Fort William Henry during the French and Indian War (1757),* The Wood’s Edge depicts the harsh realities that can face a man in his time of sorrow. Captain, later Major, Reginald Aubrey’s wife gave birth during the waning hours of the siege. So does the prisoner of war, Good Voice. When the Aubrey baby dies in his mother’s sleeping arms, he makes the choice to switch his baby with the white-skinned twin of the babies born to Good Voice. This sets off a rippling effect that defines this novel.
As the years progress, the Aubrey’s raise that stolen baby as their own and named him William. However, Reginald is wrecked by guilt for partaking in this act. The Aubrey’s also raise Anna, the foundling Reginald saved on their flight from Fort William Henry after witnessing her parents’ murder. Meanwhile, Good Voice and her remaining son, Two Hawks, are reunited with her husband, Stone Thrower and struggle to accept the fact they have a child who was stolen from them. Each comes to terms in their own way during the novel’s course. Readers will see how the children grow up, each with a unique set of circumstances. In the case of Anna, Heledd never accepted her and neighbor Lydia, who was but a teenager when Anna was a toddler, learns to love the girl as her own. Theirs was a friendship bound by shared love, sweat, and heartache. Lydia also pines for the one she loves, but may never have for he is claimed by another.
When William is sent to England for schooling upon turning ten, the novel takes a striking turn. Days after William leaves, Anna finds Two Hawks near the woods bordering their upstate New York home. While this first meeting was brief, more would follow over the years. Their two worlds collide in more ways than one. Each learns about the other’s culture while Anna freely shares news of William. Two Hawks relishes this news of his lost brother, but this news is not the only reason he keeps returning to the wood’s edge. Additionally, readers will see how each of the characters grow and change as events unfold, culminating with unexpected and unintended revelations.
Benton’s writing was spellbinding. Not only were her words poetic, by they drew me into the story and kept me captivated. While Reginald and Heledd’s story invokes heartache, Anna and Two Hawk’s love story is tender and loving. The war of conscious expressed by Reginald, Good Voice, and Stone Thrower depicts an epic mental and emotional battle, as does the troubled, yet loving, relationship between Good Voice and Stone Thrower. Then who could not sympathize with Lydia’s longing love for Reginald? While this is a historical fiction work and well researched, it is the relationships that drive the story. It is the relationships that make one want to know what happens with each turn of the page. It is the relationships that make me wish I did not have to wait until Spring 2016 for the next books in the series, A Flight of Arrows. I really, really do not wish to wait! Nor can I really put into words the full effect of the story; its elegant writing; and the power and range of emotions invoked.
I also liked how at the end of the novel, Benton included a glossary of the Oneida words with their English translation and the Oneida months with their English equivalent.
This novel is also an inspirational novel. As always I want to address that issue. The topic is integrated in through the presence of a missionary among the Oneidas and through Lydia’s strong convictions. Given the era in which the novel was set, this is historically accurate. And everything is tied together by one main theme, which if mentioned, would be a major spoiler to the novel’s end.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
The Wood’s Edge is released tomorrow, 4/21/15.
Do you think you’ll read this The Wood’s Edge? Do you have another book to recommend about blending White and Native American cultures? Another good one I read a while back, before I really wrote book reviews on this blog, was Daughter of Shiloh based on the true story of Clarinda Allington written by Ilene Shepard Smiddy, an author local to my region.
*If this event sounds familiar, this is an event that defines James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. In fact, one reason Benton’s series is probably known as The Path Finder Series that is was named thus after Mohican’s sequel, The Pathfinders.