By Jacqueline Baker
HarperCollings Publishers LTD., Toronto, Ontario,
432 pages, 2007, softcover or hardcover.
The Horseman's Graves returns us to the harsh locale
of Sand Hills on the Saskatchewan-Alberta border, where Baker unfolds
a tale of a small German immigrant community caught between the
promise of this new land and the weight of a European past, with
its hatred, fear and old-country superstitions. Lathias is a half-breed
farmhand, a young loner who becomes the unofficial guardian to the Schoff boy, a golden child until
a terrible farm accident scars his face and his mind. Both boys
are drawn to Elisabeth, a savagely beautiful girl, whose stepfather,
Leo, is the local scapegrace, a man whose cruelty is both a source
of amusement and shame to the townspeople. When Elisabeth, watched only by the Schoff boy,
falls through the ice into the river, no one foresees how it will
be the end and the beginning of everything.
A novel so lyrical and hypnotic that it begs to be read aloud,
The Horsemans Graves is a pitch-perfect rendering of small-town
immigrant life. Told through the unforgettable narrative voice of
a see all neighbor, it is filled with memorable characters: a blustering,
pious priest; a mysterious witch faith healer; the town busybody;
a fearful young farm wife who is virtually worked to death. An extraordinarily
accomplished work, The Horseman's Graves is a profound testament
to our universal search for love and redemption.
In the Acknowledgements, the author writes: "Many sources
were useful in researching this place and these people. Deserving
particular mention are Paradise on the Steppe and Homesteaders on
the Steppe by Joseph Height."
The Horseman's Graves
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