One evening in 1946, a hungry stranger joins the family at Salthill, a horse ranch in the Skillihawk Valley in British Columbia. Grey St. Oegger welcomes the young African-American, who gives his name as simply Harris, in for a meal. But after dinner, when he sees Harris's affinity for horses, he extends that welcome indefinitely, offering Harris a job and a place to live.
Over the next five years, Harris seems to settle in at Salthill, becoming a partner and nearly a son to Grey, who breeds and trains horses while raising his two daughters and his son. Harris even buys a horse of his own, a magnificent but temperamental creature they call the Red. But even Grey sees a rage in Harris, simmering like the Red's own wild streak below Harris's quiet exterior. None of the St. Oeggers know much about him or what he really wants. For the more he becomes part of the family, the more an explosion seems inevitable-especially once Elsa, Grey's youngest daughter, returns from school a headstrong and beautiful young woman and turns her eye on Harris.
Judith Barnes has written a lush and compelling historical novel about family and relationships, love and rage, loyalty and betrayal, all set against the beautiful backdrop of the Canadian wilderness and the ranching life.
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Judith Barnes has traveled extensively throughout the world, and lived in Canada for two years. She was born, raised, and still lives in Los Angeles, California. This is her first novel.
Barnes's debut novel spans the years 1946 to 1957, chronicling the life of Garnet Harris and his struggle for acceptance in the rugged Canadian west. An African-American gifted at handling horses, Harris heads north to escape poverty, drug addiction and the savage, debilitating racism of the American South. Arriving hungry and penniless at Salthill, a ranch in British Columbia, he is befriended by Grey St. Oegger, the ranch's expatriate Englishman owner. Though both are guarded men, they bond over their love of horses and honest labor. Then St. Oegger's youngest daughter, free-spirited and passionate Elsa, falls in love with Harris, complicating life at Salthill. She and Harris begin a turbulent, clandestine affair that ends when Harris flees the ranch, knowing he has betrayed St. Oegger's trust. The story is already melodramatic enough, laden with overripe imagery and an excess of figurative language, but the passages about Harris's subsequent self-induced exile and wanderings take it over the top. Despite the often graphic scenes detailing intolerant attitudes toward blacks, Barnes's attempts to explore Harris's past and the insidious effects of racism are uneven and ambivalent: a fresher perspective on prejudice would have lent the novel greater depth. Barnes has talent-as evidenced by her sharp, informative descriptions of horses, ranch life and the natural wonders of the Canadian landscape-but her debut would've benefited from a tighter hand on the reins.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description St. Martin's Press, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0312290187
Book Description St. Martin's Press, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110312290187