The Wood’s Edge
About This Book
At the wood’s edge, cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact?
The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.
On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald’s wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.
When the long-buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood’s edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin’s absence, another unaware of his twin’s existence. And for Anna, who loves them both—Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him?
Some books are fast food. Others are sit-down chain restaurants. Still others are hole-in-the-wall gems waiting to be discovered. Then there are Lori Benton’s novels—ten-course banquets lavishly produced and served with elegance, flair and ceremony. There is no rushing to get the check, no drive-thru window in a Lori Benton novel: opening one of her stories is an invitation to linger at an exquisite feast.
Benton’s prose cannot be consumed, let alone appreciated, in the same way most modern novels can in this OMG/LOL/TTYL day and age. Her writing truly evokes the colonial era she writes about, an almost oratorical style that is meant to be spoken aloud, each word and phrase chewed ten times before swallowing. It has a rhythm and flow that can’t be speed-read, yet maintains a balance with plot and action that prevents it from ever feeling too slow. Each page demands to be savored, and I love it!
This is an epic, multi-family, multi-generational saga from the very opening page, and spans nearly two decades in more than a dozen characters’ lives. Yet each character was so distinctly written that I had no trouble keeping them separate. Major Aubrey is a tragic anti-hero whose one rash decision, born out of desperate love and even more desperate heartache, sets off a whole chain of events for two families living close by but worlds apart. This novel has so many outstanding characters, but Anna and Two Hawks stood out most for me, as their relationship proves to be the Shakespeare-esque catalyst that brings all the storylines to a head. I connected with each and every character, and was especially excited to be reunited with two characters from Benton’s debut novel, Burning Sky, Tames His Horse and Clear Day.
Slow and methodical without plodding along, Benton writes a different kind of page turner. The story is spread over decades, with particular moments in these characters’ lives woven together in a pattern that isn’t wholly visible until the story is finished, and even then there are loose threads. The ending was very satisfying, yet launched a whole new barrage of conflicts and story threads to lay the perfect foundation for the sequel. And the book was filled with oodles of conflict and tension, both internal and external. While the central conflict—the stolen child—definitely carries the story, it is the sturdy trunk from which numerous other branches of conflict spring. And it’s these vast and varied layers of complexity that had me glued to each page.
As for romantic tension, holy buckets! Anna and Two Hawks’ transformation from secret childhood friends to defiant young lovers is one of the most romantic stories I have ever read. And theirs isn’t the only romance in the story: Benton captures the travail and perseverance of her married characters’ love lives as well, building steadily until all three romances converge in the gut-wrenching final act.
The research and story world of The Wood’s Edge are flawless. The book begins right where Cooper’s immortal Last of the Mohicans ends and carries through the colonial expansion of New York, right up to the outbreak of war in 1776. Every nuance was beautifully and skillfully portrayed, from the harsh landscape and cruel conventions of polite society, to the want and plenty of these two opposing cultures.
The Wood’s Edge was truly one of the most spiritually-challenging novels I have ever read. The themes of forgiving one’s enemies and one’s self are so vividly conveyed, it was a brutal mirror in which I saw many areas of my own life where I needed to extend and accept forgiveness. It was incredibly powerful without being preachy. I also loved how the story played against type by using the Indian Christians to carry most of the spiritual weight of the story, instead of portraying them as savages in need of saving.
In terms of potentially questionable or disturbing content, there are some violent battle scenes at the beginning, including Indian attacks, as well as depictions of drunkenness, abuse, neglect, medical operations, illness (both physical and mental), and a fistfight, but none of this content is extremely content nor included just for shock value. It is essential to the story, though it makes the story a bit more mature than I would normally recommend for young readers. I definitely advise parents to read this one before their teen or young adult readers, as this book will spark a lot of great questions and discussions about responsibility, acceptance, and forgiveness. As a movie, this would probably be rated PG-13.
In all, I read this book months ago and STILL have a book hangover! I was completely captivated by The Wood’s Edge from the very first page, as the story wove an epic and intricate tapestry of love, despair, recrimination, vengeance, condemnation, faith, hope, and forgiveness that, as I closed the back cover, left me smiling and weeping and breathless for more. Heart-pounding romance, haunting spiritual themes, lyrical prose, riveting characters—this book truly has it all.
Available April 21, 2015 from WaterBrook Multnomah