I won a copy of Wind Over Marshdale by Tracy Krauss a few weeks back, and I finally got around to starting it over the weekend. I just finished reading it a little while ago, and all I can say is wow.
WARNING: Spoilers are included.
It’s Christian fiction, which I’ve read quite a bit of; there’s romance, which I also read quite a bit. Honestly, I’m not sure how to classify the book because there is so much happening in it and so many subplots. There are quite a few points of view, including a teenager or two, but there are three characters whose eyes most of the scenes are shown through so it’s not that difficult to keep up. It did take a while to figure out how all the various people were connected and why some of them even had scenes in their perspective, but it all eventually tied together. Actually, the end tied everything up a little too nicely with salvation, redemption, returning to faith too long ignored, and a random flip from nasty to nice for two old aunties who are only mentioned once or twice in the book. I’ve seen this happen in other Christian fiction and romances, so it wasn’t too surprising that everything wrapped up in such a pretty little package, but it was a bit disappointing given the edgy tone of the rest of the book.
That tone is something that got to me from time to time. It seemed like the entire town of Marshdale was obsessed with sex. Now, don’t get me wrong. There aren’t any sex scenes and nothing graphic, but it seemed like a large number of characters (especially the heroine and the pastor, oddly enough) spent a great deal of time thinking and talking about sex. While not uncommon in a romance, after a while it began to feel like I was being taught a lesson on the dangers of immoral activity and impure thoughts. Considering this is a Christian novel, it didn’t really bother me.
What did bother me, however, was the character of Thomas Lone Wolf and how he was treated. The book started with such potential for Thomas, a Cree man with a rock-solid Christian faith who moved his two kids (a teen and a kindergartener) to the small prairie town of Marshdale. It’s never explicitly stated, but I think he’s an archaeologist, which is awesome. He’s involved with a nearby archaeological dig, anyway, that’s uncovered native artifacts. Throughout the story, he’s trying to convince the town to build a cultural center near the site of the dig, which has turned out to be more historically significant than originally expected. He runs into all kinds of believable and well done prejudice and roadblocks for his “Indian center,” as some of the more racist locals call it.
What got to me is the way Thomas is always talking and thinking about diversity, wanting people to accept and respect each other regardless of skin color, and speaking out against prejudice and racism (all of which are excellent and gave me great hope for his role in the story), but then at times he was just as prejudiced and racist, if not more so, than the whites who wanted him to take his kids and leave town because they “didn’t belong” there. Around the middle of the book, I would have thrown the book across the room if it had been a paperback instead of on my Kindle. Not because Thomas was being a hypocrite, but because of the heroine.
See, the heroine is attracted to both Thomas and a white man (the hero, Con McKinley)from the time she meets them. Pretty standard fare for a romance, so no big deal. She goes out with Thomas first and has a good time with him and is still attracted to him. Then she goes out with Con, and it’s obvious from the writing that she’s eventually going to end up with him. Okay, fine so far, since she obviously has to fall for one guy or the other. Then she has a disagreement with Con, and after a week of him avoiding her, she’s feeling lonely. She calls him, but gets his voice mail. So she calls Thomas, the guy she’s attracted to, feels sexual tension around, but doesn’t have the same warm fuzzy relationship feelings with that she has with Con. She coaxes Thomas into letting her come over to his place, making it clear she’s only interested in a booty call. After she’s there, he wises up long enough to realize sex would be a mistake at that moment and sends her home just in time. But then he gets farther and farther from the strong Christian faith he had at the beginning of the book, thanks in part to listening to the local witch, a woman he’s warned his children away from. At one point he decides to drop in on the heroine to pick up where they left off at his house (which ends with her asking him to leave before anything really happens), and what follows is a complete slide away from his faith and the decision that because his ancestors used a nearby lake as a meeting and religious place, it is his right to get the land to build his cultural center, connect with the native religion, etc. He does eventually realize the mistakes he’s made and straighten everything out in his life, with his friends, and with God, but the way the character and his flaws, temptations, etc. are handled rubbed me the wrong way.
Then there’s the heroine. She spends quite a bit of time thinking about sex and relationships with men, but then gets embarrassed whenever sex is mentioned, now matter how vaguely. At times she seems like an intelligent and worldly woman, but at other times she comes across as a naive, ignorant girl. For a teacher, she seems to know relatively little about how farming works, which could be understandable since she’s a city girl, but she shows her ignorance in the strangest places, such as not knowing that winter snows are important to the water table and the next year’s crops.
What Wind Over Marshdale comes down to for me is that it’s not a bad book, but it’ll never be one of my favorites. If you’re looking for Christian fiction set in a small town with all those small town issues and a rather complex storyline, you might enjoy Wind Over Marshdale.