Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Buffalo Soldier by Chris Bohjalian - SuziQ's Review

Published: 2002
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 420

Two years ago Laura and Terry Sheldon’s twin 9 year old daughters died in a flash flood. Now they are foster parents to a 10 year old African-American boy named Alfred. Terry and Laura are still dealing with their grief and guilt over the loss of their daughters. Alfred is a child of the system who has lived in too many households in his young life. He is a quiet loner who has never really felt like he belongs anywhere. Paul Hebert, the retired professor who lives next door to the Sheldon’s takes an interest in Alfred and they find a common interest in the story of The Buffalo Soldiers Cavalry unit.

This book is told in several different voices – Laura, Terry, Alfred, the neighbors and also the woman whose involvement with Terry threatens what remains of the Sheldon’s marriage. It’s not just about the foster care system, nor is it about a couple dealing with their grief, guilt and marital tensions. It is about each of the characters and their fears, doubts and needs in terms of what family means to them.

There is sadness in the loss of the Sheldon girls and the impact that has on their parents as well as people who knew them and even Alfred, who never met them. There is joy in the relationship between Alfred and Paul Hebert. There is heartache in many of the characters as their relationships are tested.
. . . and every minute he felt like he was walking on glass. You moved slow in this house, as if everything – and that included the people – was just about to break.
I thought this was a very good book. I found it to be touching in many places and thought provoking for many reasons.


alisonwonderland said...

i read The Buffalo Soldier when it was first published and really liked it. i've read most but not all (yet) of Bohjalian's books and have enjoyed them all. my favorite is Before You Know Kindness. it definitely has that "touching in many places and thought provoking for many reasons" quality. i hope you'll read more of this new-to-you author, Suzi!

SuziQoregon said...

Thanks for the recommendation Alison.