By: Carolyn Steele
Publisher: Bonneville Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc.
Publication Date: December 2015
ISBN #: 978-1-4621-1700-0
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 2016
Carolyn Steele takes the reader on a journey from North Carolina in the final days of the Civil War to Soda Springs, Idaho in her latest historical novel, Soda Springs.
Thirteen-year-old Tessa Darrow is horrified when she sees the man tossing his clothing into the fire. When she realizes the man is none other than her father, Henry Darrow, she is outraged. He is home from war and why on earth is he burning his military uniform? It is early morning and the rest of her family is still fast asleep. She insists on an answer from her father as to why he would denigrate his uniform; let alone destroy a fine wool garment that would serve well as added warmth come winter. Demanding answers, Tessa is faced with the rage of a father she doesn’t recognize and if she knows what is good for her, she will heed his ominous command and get back in the house at once.
Sadly, the burning of the uniform Tessa witnessed was an inconsequential precursor to what was to come of the Darrow family’s future. Within a handful of days, they have packed their belongings of the opulent plantation—the only home Tessa ever knew. They were leaving North Carolina; destined for the wide open spaces of a west Tessa knew nothing about. The terror of being tossed into the future of the unknown, Tessa is bereft when she takes a glance back toward her home only to see the band of soldiers surrounding their homestead and dodging the flames that lit up the sky. It would take Tessa many years to erase her final images of her childhood home as it burned to the ground in the wake of the Darrow family’s departure. What Tessa couldn’t possibly know is the tenuous journey ahead of them. She knew about the dreaded small pox disease, but never in her wildest imagination would she expect to experience the ravages of it first-hand.
Carolyn Steele has penned an engaging tale that is complemented with an anchor of intriguing history. The Civil War is such an epic period of time in the founding of our country and, on its heels, the discovery of the Wild West is an equally strong allure in our early civilization. Steele settles into the concept and delivers a story of trials and tribulations presented to a family accustomed to privilege; only to expose them to what life is like to simply survive day-to-day. There are ample passages of the stark difference between eastern and western landscape followed by wonderful dialogue among the characters of this story. Steele exposes the reader to the early religious concepts and establishes the conflict of understanding (and perhaps acceptance) between conventional Christian beliefs in contrast to those of polygamy and the Mormon way of life. I applaud her for presenting both views in a story-like fashion; allowing the reader to form his or her opinion versus force-feeding her views on the reader. This is a quick and easy read and has a lovely pace of moving it forward with great twists and turns along the way.
Quill says: Soda Springs is the perfect companion for a weekend getaway that fulfills the prospect of having nothing more to do than read a good book.