The Clay Endures
by Sharon K. Miller

Buckskin Books, 2016. ISBN 978-0-996-15443-7.
Reviewed by Pat Bean
Posted on 10/13/2016

Fiction: Historical

I wanted to read The Clay Endures by Sharon K. Miller because the book's setting is the Sonoran Desert in Southeastern Arizona, where I have been living for the past three years. I am just now learning the area's history, and thought the fictional book would add some flesh and bone to my research of the historical facts.

Miller's book is set in the mid-1860s, a period just after the Civil War has ended, and an era when the Apache Indians in Arizona were at war with all who trespassed on what they considered their lands. Even early day forts in the area came under attack, and were abandoned as a lost cause.

The Clay Endures is the story of one man's dream of using the Homesteading Act to establish a cattle ranch in an area still ruled by the Apaches. It's also the story of how far a woman in love will go to support the dreams of a new husband.

The two stories—one of Armando, who defies his parents' wishes and marries the woman he loves, and the other of Esperanza, who gives up the security of a loving family to follow him—intertwine like the warp and weft threads of woven cloth.

The story begins with the simple story of two people in love—and I decide I'm reading a book meant for a younger audience than I. But then secondary and third layers of the storyline are added, and the book takes me beyond the love story and into a past life of indigenous cultures that are made real to Esperanza by the bits and pieces of pottery she finds around her small, dirt-floored home.

The written history of Southeastern Arizona only goes back to the 1500s, when Spanish explorers Cabeza de Vaca and Francisco Vasquez de Coronado trekked through the area. But Esperanza looks at the land through the eyes of a woman who created an ancient clay pot, one Esperanza finds completely intact. She takes strength from this pot, which she imagines was created by a woman much like herself.

During a rare visit from family, Esperanza shows the pot and says: "I found this in the garden. It made me think about those who lived here long ago. The woman who made this pot—her spirit—has lingered in this place, keeping me company. I dream about her. I even talk about her helps."

Midway through The Clay Endures, I realized it wasn't just a book written for young adults, but for all readers who can understand the realities of life, and that sometimes love isn't enough to get through the bad times.

The Clay Endures is a book graced by simplicity of words in its story-telling, more than by its artful use of words, but it fulfilled my goal for choosing it to read. The book definitely added the flesh and bones of humaneness to the historical facts I had learned.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Sharon K. Miller, author of The Clay Remembers (May, 2015), The Clay Endures (July, 2016), and The Clay Sustains (coming in 2017), grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and now lives near Tucson, Arizona She is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, the Independent Author's Network, Women's Fiction Writing Association, the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society, and Old Pueblo Archaeology. She is also editor and owner of Buckskin Books. Visit her website.

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