Friday, March 20, 2015
From the author of "The Ranch Next Door and Other Stories" come six more short stories exploring the joys, heartaches and laughter of life against the backdrop of the Old West. In “Single-Handed,” a gunfighter’s courage comes in doubt when he refuses to explain to his friends the real reason he backed down from a fight. The capable proprietress of the busiest eating-house in town handles a day of disasters large and small in the light-hearted “The Rush at Mattie Arnold’s,” while in “Room Service,” a hotel night clerk finds himself in on odd position after he allows an exhausted traveler to stay in a reserved room. And in the title story, the novella-length “Wanderlust Creek,” a young rancher and his wife struggle to hold onto their land and their dreams in the face of adversity from weather, enemies—and even doubts of each other. Approximately 53,000 words.
Wanderlust Creek was like going way back to the Roy Rogers films, only without any of the cheesiness, and much more value. I read most of this novella on a Sunday afternoon. The general happiness and subtle sweetness of the stories hooked me in one after another and I couldn't put them down. In fact, this novella made me think of our favorite western book, Letters of a Woman Homesteader, by Elinore Pruitt Stewart.
Single-Handed and A Search for Truth were good, all-around gunslinger cowboy stories. The Rush at Mattie Arnold's made me laugh, especially every time Etta pinned her braids up. The Mustanger's Bride and Room Service surprised me. The characters made choices that left me wondering once or twice (eloping girls and forging hotel books are not generally activities I consider heroic) but I admired Elisabeth's guts for including them without apology or explanation. Wanderlust Creek was the most precious gem of the collection. The villain kept me guessing, and I loved Gloria and Ray's commitment to each other. Gloria made me think of Nannie in A Bride Goes West, (a true story) with her love for the West, even though she grew up a city-type girl. I could tell a lot of love went into that story on Elisabeth's part, and it showed in the good craftsmanship. The various characters portrayed chivalry and honesty and a willingness to work hard to make a heritage for themselves.
What I most appreciated about this collection was the general hope and sweetness. Guys and girls became sweethearts, cowboys found a second chance, and problems were fairly easily resolved. After the long list of complicated and gut-wrenching novels I read regularly, having a book that was true-hearted and clean and good felt like a refreshing drink of water.
This is a novella, so I can't write a long review without giving spoilers or waxing unnecessarily eloquent. I will just leave it short and sweet. It was well worth the investment, and I'll be on the lookout for more of Elisabeth's novellas in future.
You can find Elisabeth over at her blog The Second Sentence, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads. Wanderlust Creek is on Amazon.