Thought I would share with you a review I did for a book that was released early this past spring. River of the Arms of God was written by Irene Sandell, who is a retired Texas History teacher in the Dallas area. This is her second novel, and it was just nominated for the 2009 Willa Award, given by Women Writing the West.
River of the Arms of God is a story of two women held against their will in the harsh Texas frontier. Sarah is held by Eli along the Butterfield Stage Line in the mid 1800s, and a hundred years later Kate is the emotional prisoner of a rancher in those same Texas plains. She thought Colby loved her, but he only wanted her to bear him a son. When she failed to provide him one, he lost interest in her.
Against great odds, Sarah manages to survive in the isolated cabin for almost two years and makes a daring escape with her son, Edward. She leaves behind a diary and some stone carvings that Kate eventually finds. Reading about Sarah’s courage gives Kate the courage to demand a divorce.
As the story unfolds, the parallels between the two women become more obvious, as does the emotional connection that Kate makes to Sarah. It is written in a style that captures the look and feel of cattle country in Texas, and the characters are well-drawn and endearing. In introducing Kate, the author explains how she came to call herself that. “The people in Wheeler, Texas, would have been shocked to know that shy Kathryn Rowley had defied her father and chosen her own name. It was her secret and an uncharacteristically rebellious decision on her part. It hinted at strength that even she could not imagine.”
This is an enjoyable tale of two strong women who fight against all odds to escape the tyranny of their men and their circumstances.
Ms. Sandell is a fourth-generation Texan and has written and produced 16 documentaries on Texas history.