The Horseman's Graves

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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