Synopses & Reviews
Set in the Kaw River Valley where Paretsky grew up, Bleeding Kansas
is the story of the Schapens and the Grelliers, two farm families whose histories have been entwined since the 1850s, when their ancestors settled the valley as antislavery emigrants.
Today, the Schapen family, terrified by the lawlessness of the 1970s when Lawrence was the most violent college town in the nation has turned to that old-time religion for security. The Schapens keep a close eye on all their neighbors, most especially the Grelliers. They maintain careful track of everyone's misdeeds, printing the most egregious on their family website. When Gina Haring, a Wiccan, moves into an empty farmhouse and starts practicing pagan rites, the family members are so outraged that they begin an active harassment campaign against the Wiccans.
The Schapens worry, too, about who stands better with the Lord: their family or the Grelliers. When a Schapen cow gives birth to what may be a Perfect Red Heifer needed if the temple is ever rebuilt in Jerusalem the Schapens feel convinced that God is indeed smiling on them.
Despite parental cautions, the Grelliers' teenagers are enraged by the Schapens. All their short lives, they and the young Schapens have fought. One particularly angry confrontation causes Chip Grellier to be expelled from school and consequentlyto join the army. Chip's death in Iraq is the catalyzing event for momentous changes in the lives of not only both the Schapens and the Grelliers but of all the families in the valley. The powerful, climactic scene at Gina Haring's Samhain bonfire will forever haunt the reader.
For all the acts of cruelty committed between its covers, Sara Paretsky's BLEEDING KANSAS
(Putnam, $25.95) might as well have been a crime novel requiring the services of her series sleuth, V. I. Warshawski. Set in the rural Kaw River Valley, where the author grew up, and sparked by a feud between two families that pioneered this farm region during the 1850s, the multigenerational narrative bristles with the kind of prickly social issues that give substance to Paretsky's detective stories. But the pointed absence of her Chicago private eye may indicate that some of the social conflicts currently polarizing the American heartland can't be resolved in the fair-and-square manner of genre tradition.
The blood-boiling issue in Bleeding Kansas is religious intolerance. Bigotry comes naturally to the members of the Schapen clan, who worship at the Salvation Through the Blood of Jesus Full Bible Church and become apoplectic when Gina Haring, a New York lesbian and New Age Wiccan, moves into an old farmhouse and attempts to practice her beliefs. When they aren't harassing Gina as a sodomite, Myra Schapen and her belligerent brood are railing against the communist notion of a co-op farmers' market and hatching plots to undermine their neighbors, the Grelliers, whose more tolerant ways just plain get under their skin.
Any inclination on the part of the reader to sympathize with the Schapens (for being born and bred stupid) in this barnyard feud are wiped out when Chip Grellier, who joins the Army after being suspended from school for a fight started by his Schapen tormentors, is killed in Iraq. But the Schapens do provide much black humor by breeding the perfect red heifer referred to in the Old Testament, creating an international storm that ensnares both fundamentalist Christians and ultraorthodox Jews.
Paretsky takes care to ground her story in the regional history of Kansas, where battles over slavery were fought to the death in the 1850s and neighbor turned against neighbor more than a century later over issues like racism, women's rights and Vietnam. Kansas, Paretsky suggests, is no freak offspring in our union of states. Rather, it's a microcosm of a nation at war with itself.
New York Times
"The comparison to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood is inevitable, given the shared rural Kansas setting of the two books....[H]aunting." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"In words, images, and the cadences of midwestern speech, Paretsky paints the landscape of the Kansas prairie and the cycles of the land in this memorable and tragic tale." Booklist
"[A] powerful tale with overtones of the Wild West that illustrates the ease with which communities become zealous, ignited by fear and ignorance." Library Journal
"[T]he multigenerational narrative bristles with the kind of prickly social issues that give substance to Paretsky's detective stories." Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
"[U]nforgettable....[Paretsky] has written a serious, multi-layered saga that requires her loyal readers to move away from the familiar world of V.I. Warshawski....In its place, she has created a wild, wicked world in present-day northeastern Kansas that is as complicated as it is mean." Jim Lehrer, The Washington Post Book World
"Paretsky shows a remarkable flair for teasing out the foibles as well as the strengths of her rural protagonists. Paretsky's heroes are deeply flawed and deeply human." Chicago Tribune
The New York Times bestselling authors most remarkable novel yet a story of two families, linked by their Midwestern pioneer pasts, and the dark family secrets that threaten to tear them apart.
The "New York Times"-bestselling author's most remarkable novel yet--a story of two families, linked by their Midwestern pioneer pasts, and the dark family secrets that threaten to tear them apart. A strong and stark portrayal of the Heartland.--The Associated Press. Available in a tall Premium Edition.
The New York Times bestseller from the author of Fire Sale.
In Kansas, three families have coexisted not-so-peacefully for more than one hundred and fifty years: the Grelliers, the Fremantles, and the Schapens. Into their lives comes Gina Haring, a relative of the Fremantles who is house-sitting the derelict family mansion while she puts her own life in order. Her lifestyle and beliefs will put her at odds with her neighbors?and test the mettle of a community being swept up in events beyond its control.
About the Author
Sara Paretsky is the author of fourteen previous books, including twelve V. I. Warshawski novels. She is the winner of many awards, including the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for Lifetime Achievement from the British Crime Writers' Association.