The bleak yet beautiful land of western New Mexico is the setting for a love story in a rugged and often lonely time—the tough years of the Great Depression. City-raised, culture-loving, impoverished Ruth sought security and a home when she agreed to marry Harlan Reynolds. When the couple moved to Harlan's new job at the Diamond E ranch, Ruth found the land as bleak as her marriage. She took her car and ran away to Las Cruces, but didn't make it far before she found herself stuck in a deep and isolated arroyo. Enter Heck Benham, Diamond E cowhand, who after a spectacular display of horse-handling rescued the lady. They both felt the spark, and here, the story takes off.
In her dedication of the book to her mother, author Liz Adair explains the novel is a fictionalized account of a long secret family story: an uncle fell in love and ran away with a married woman in that long ago New Mexico.
The story Adair tells is a love story, but it is also one of struggle. Struggles with the land, the hard times, and, mostly, two very different people who, in spite of their love, want very different things.
Heck is content with his life, his horses, his home, however modest, and his (eventual) wife. Ruth longs for what she had—and more. More culture, more money, more people. Through the years, they stay together, sometimes one yielding, sometimes the other.
Adair spins a fascinating and easy to read story. All of her characters, not only Heck and Ruth, ring true. Moreover, she has a fine eye and ear for both the land and the times. I grew up in the country not far from the setting of this story, and, like Adair, I grew up hearing stories of the Great Depression. She has skillfully captured both.
This is a story to enjoy, but also one to learn from.
Liz Adair was born in New Mexico. The mother of seven, she operates a consulting company with her husband. She is the author of several books, including the Spider Latham mystery series and Using Family History in Fiction. She lives in Washington State near eight of her seventeen grandchildren. Learn more about her on her website.
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