Chasm Creek
by Patricia Grady Cox

High Hill Press, USA, 2014. ISBN 978-1-606-53085-6.
Reviewed by Denise McAllister
Posted on 07/12/2015

Fiction: Mystery; Fiction: Literary

This is a great book to get lost in. Buckle up your spurs, gather your calico dress, and walk on the dusty roads of the Arizona Territory into the lives of Esther Corbin and Morgan Braddock.

Chasm Creek is an old fashioned Western about a woman with five children, whose secretive husband may or may not return home from his own quest. She's alone, trying to survive, and working hard to raise and protect her children. Enter a mysterious stranger with a dark past, along with his Mexican friend and partner who has his own demons to deal with as he ultimately embraces his true origin as a Native American. There's a lot of drama, surprises, life journeys for each of the characters as they are thrown together, and of course there's love and redemption along the way.

The author's storytelling ability is evident and her writing flows. It's obvious she's done her research of the period, the people, and the land, as she sprinkles the text with Navajo and Spanish languages. She paints beautiful landscapes and colorful Western skies with her words and creates spirit-filled dream visions for us to witness:

It had human eyes! The coyote turned down a narrow footpath leading away from the ruins. Another appeared and followed the first. Then another and another. Dozens. Hundreds. Some whined as they passed, others growled. All looked at him with those eyes. Yellow tears fell from their haunted eyes and hardened to nuggets of gold as they fell.

As we root for the hero and heroine of the story, it's interesting to watch them develop and become whole as they draw close to each other. But this isn't just a tidy, formulaic Harlequin romance. Filled with betrayal, nasty villains, some blood and guts and shoot-'em-ups, there are many twists and turns before we reach the end. Modern women will likely identify with Esther who will do anything to protect her children, who perseveres through every trial and tribulation, and who comes out stronger in the end.

Patricia Grady Cox is a former social worker from Rhode Island who left that life behind and headed west, to try her hand at writing. Her short stories and novel chapters have won several contests. Grady Cox volunteers at the Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum, portraying an 1880s ranch wife, and got a first-hand glimpse into the hardships of the period. She is a member of Western Writers of America and Women Writing the West. She lives with her Australian Shepherd (Mustang Sally) in the Phoenix area of Arizona where she enjoys the support of a wonderful community of writers. Visit her website.

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