Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Buffalo Soldier, by Chris Bohjalian (2002)

I was just with my mom and sister in Florida last week for our half marathon and my mom passed this book on to me to read on the plane home. I have to say, I was not very enthusiastic when reading the short summary on the back, but when I found out it was by the author of Midwives, which I read some time ago, I became intrigued, because I loved that book, and was amazed to find out the author was a man, not a woman. How could a man have written so poignantly and with so much understanding about pregnancy, delivery, being a midwife?? So I decided to give him a chance with Buffalo Soldier. I started reading it during my journey and it kept me company all the way.

The novel tells the story of a couple who lost their twin daughters in a tragic accident and who are struggling to put the pieces of their lives back together. They decide to foster a child, and a young black boy is placed with them. The husband struggles to come to terms with the child, his own grief and the distance between himself and his wife. The wife feels a close connection to the child, Alfred, which turns into a fierce loyalty when she faces possibly having to choose between him or her marriage. Alfred does his best to fit into the small and insulated white community, while warding off his own fears of abandonment.

I was entranced by this book. The characters are all real people, not one sided - even the secondary characters are superbly drawn. I was sorry when I got to the end of the book, even though it was a satisfactory ending, with some of the characters having to make hard choices, but the right ones, I think. And the Bob Marley song, "Buffalo Soldier", was in my mind all week...

I am definitely going to see if our library has more books by Mr. Bohjalian.

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