Thursday, August 9, 2012

Book Review: The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell

Read on, if you have already read Saundra Mitchell's previous book, The Vespertine, if not, back up the wagon and check that book out first!

Zora is still in mourning over the loss of Thomas Rea, the boy she thought she would marry some day, who was shot the previous summer. She has lost many she loves over the previous months: Thomas, her friend and cousin Sarah, and her cousin Amelia, whose gift of seeing the future in the sunset brought about both luck and misfortune, before she succumbed to a fever back home in rural Maine.

When her mother refuses to let her mourning continue, Zora is determined to live out her life of sorrow on the prairies of the untamed Wild West and leave Baltimore, the city of her sorrows, far behind her.

She heads out to join her Aunt Birdie in Oklahoma Territory to help her care for her young daughter and her homestead, but her arrival in West Glory is nowhere near smooth, with her coach being robbed by bandits 25 miles outside of town and her being left stranded alone in the dark. If not for a young man named Emerson Birch, it would have been a long walk indeed, but he comes to her rescue and offers her a place to stay for the night, as well as a ride to Aunt Birdie's in the morning.

Upon her arrival in town, she discovers another Baltimorean has recently relocated to West Glory. Theo de la Croix has also made the long journey west in order to try to court Zora. He has always admired her from afar, but now he wants to make his admiration known, so he follows her to the west and takes up a teaching position in West Glory.

Zora soon settles into the routine of life on a prairie homestead, the constant trips to the well for water to be used for watering the crops, doing the washing, and cooking and cleaning, but she also discovers that she, too, has a gift, the ability to sense water beneath the parched earth.

Her aunt soon hires her out as a "springsweet" to local landowners, so she can help them to find the best place on their land to dig their wells. As Zora is hired out and attempts to help the other land owners, she learns how very important a source of water can be to a homesteader trying to make a life on the dry prairie.

She must make a choice, a choice between the finely dressed and well-mannered Theo, or the homesteader and "sooner" Emerson Birch. She came to the territories to escape the sorrows of home and the loss of her love, but maybe there is love yet to be found out on the prairie.

Upon meeting Mr. Birch, I was instantly interested in what would happen next. This story kept me turning pages long past the time when I should have been asleep. I hope it will do the same for you!
Check out The Springsweet @thelibrary!

- Blaine

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