A new novel for the top of your 2021 reading list — Cold Morning Shadow is an upbeat family saga and a celebration of language, friendship, love, and hope.
BY DAVID A. WOODBURY, QUALITY PAPERBACK, 719 PAGES, $16 AT AMAZON, KINDLE EDITION $4.
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The story that couldn’t be told until 50 years had passed: Wilton Straed, self-conscious and regrettably cautious, has spent most of his eighteen years raising his sister, “Rockie,” thanks to parents who couldn’t or wouldn’t. In 1967 they are uprooted from their urban Virginia “post-European” comforts and dropped into Spearfish, South Dakota, he for one more year of high school, she for two. Lionel Comosh, a high school senior and local off-reservation descendant of the Lakota tribe, is a part-time mechanic in the family business who aspires to more of the same. His younger sister, Cyleine, secretly daring, agonizingly sentimental, and a connoisseur of words and numbers, soon befriends the new girl.
It’s not long before Lionel, outwardly forbidding but privately gentle and unsettled in his indigenous heritage, falls hard for the obliviously alluring — and willing — Rockie, whose heedlessly unfiltered utterances can melt barriers and hearts.
Over the next year the four lay the cornerstones for what could be lasting friendships. Promptly after high school, though, Wilton slips away from Spearfish, shunning his father’s oppressive rule but leaving behind a bewildered Cyleine. Lionel goes his own way, too, but must answer whether he will let love’s soft net draw him back to Rockie. The more the gentle strands close around Wilton and Cyleine in their separation, the more their vacillation imperils any lasting tie.
Among the four friends, one organizes stray thoughts, the family’s horses, and the people who matter most. One is deaf but not as helpless as it might sound. One transforms the family business. And one is branded a deserter in Vietnam.
Turn-bullet, the girls’ junior-year English teacher, remains an influential ally beyond high school. As the adversities of adulthood begin to assail the four friends he urges them to take command of the English language, for in language is power. Enthusiastically they apply his advice, in word lists, ciphers, and verse, and in one’s poignant struggle to hear.
While one of the four blithely reaches out to President Nixon and, to no one’s surprise, becomes a penpal, Turn-bullet is pulling strings in Washington on behalf of the missing soldier, who has become a captive laborer in a Chinese radio factory, there charming factory co-workers and audiences of exhibition wrestling but not pleasing the Communist Party.
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