27 April 2014



Synopsis from NetGalley: Winner of the 1990 Spur Award for Best Western Novel: An unlikely hero arrives in a hard town—can the wandering preacher bring justice to Sanctuary?

A hungry Indian boy waits by the train tracks, hopping back and forth to keep warm, praying that someone passing through the forgotten town of Sanctuary will throw him a scrap of food. A preacher gets off the train, thin and tan, and tells the boy to follow him. The preacher gives the child money and a meal, then sends him on his way. This is the first life Mordecai will save in Sanctuary. It will not be the last.

A hardscrabble town far from civilization, Sanctuary is lorded over by a hypocritical reverend and a cruel rancher. They see no threat in the preacher, but they underestimate him. A religious man hardened by life on the frontier, Mordecai is not afraid to thrash a sinner with his belt. He will remake this town in God’s image, or leave Sanctuary to burn.

Stats for my copy: E-book, published by Open Road Integrated Media, 4/7/14; downloaded from NetGalley.

First line: The train was late, but Judd Medicine Elk didn't know that, nor did he care.

My thoughts: When I was much younger, I went through a phase where I read a lot of Westerns, particularly Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey. But in the last few years the only westerns I've read have been mostly the Wagons West series by Dana Fuller Ross, and Lonesome Dove. I loved Lonesome Dove, and after that wonderful experience I began collecting westerns when I came across them at library sales and such. So when I received an email from Open Road Media, inviting me to review SANCTUARY via NetGalley, I took the plunge and joined NetGalley (something I'd been avoiding doing, for the simple reason that I prefer an actual book in my hands versus a digital book).

A mysterious preacher arrives in the little town of Sanctuary, and one by one begins intervening in the lives of various residents, helping them, and helping them help themselves. A young Indian boy living in poverty with his grandmother at the dump. A former doctor who now cleans a bar for a living and spends the rest of his time drunk. The preacher wades in and stirs things up. Despite all the action that occurs, the pace is slow and meandering. Sparse. The author has a nice turn of phrase and at times his descriptions are quite evocative. A couple of my favorites:

His eyes were hard and cold as January ice, and that image was strengthened by the white hair that sprayed from beneath the old man's hat like wisps of snow drifting ahead of Montana winds.”

When he spoke, his voice seemed broken, the words poking through his trepidation like bits of ice floating down a river.”

There are lots of characters, but no character is delved into too deeply. They mostly live poor, hardscrabble lives, and occasionally we are given a flashback about a particular character. But we don't get to know any of them very well or get very deeply into their heads. For me, that was a downside, as I love good character development. If characters are really well written and drawn out, the plot can be non-existent and I'm still happy.

Maybe westerns just aren't my style after all. Or maybe it was the preacher's similarity to Jesus. I'm not a religious person at all, despite the fact that I read and enjoy tons of Love Inspired books. The correlations of the story to that of Jesus may be better appreciated by readers more familiar with and invested in religion than I am. Unfortunately my attention sometimes wavered and the book just didn't speak to me. 

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