Soul of the Desert By Maria E. Schneider ISBN# 9780615923888 Author’s Website: http://www.BearMountainBooks.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Alina
Beware of possible spoilers
Christina is a 26 year old Mexican, who lives and works in Houston, and is afraid of flying. On a business trip to New York she crosses paths with Rand, a black boy who works for the mob, and her life is changed forever; soon flying will become the least of her worries. Bo is 9 years old, he is Rand’s little brother, and Old Man Donny wants him to start doing deliveries. The only way for him to get out of that kind of life is for his older brother to find a way to make him disappear. The ones to take him in are Christina’s parents, who run a cattle farm in New Mexico.
I got very invested in this book from the very first words. I liked the style, the pacing, the atmosphere. And I liked Christina. She lands in a very, very tough situation, and by being herself, she manages to turn things around, in her favor, also saving some lives in the process. She is strong and smart and has a truly big heart. I find it very hard to talk about this book, without spoiling it for the reader, because I would like to discuss in detail everything that happened and the main characters, because I grew to love them all, especially Rand. He is a boy who is forced by circumstances to become a man from a very early age, who has to be his little brother’s mother and father, to feed him and protect him mentally and physically. And this to Rand’s own detriment. They come from a very disturbed environment, one where Rand:
‘Couldn’t find a job because he had to know somebody, had to be a fresh release from Riker’s island with someone who had done time with him.’
It’s painful to think that no matter how hard he tried to save himself, the only solution he could come up with was to, again, work for the mob.
When Bo moves to the New Mexico farm, he automatically feels that he needs to protect himself and interprets the day to day activities on the farm as dangerous and aggressive. How else could he explain why the little calves need to be branded with a hot iron and their ears pierced, not to mention that the bulls get their private parts cut off. No wonder the poor boy likens all this to an execution style shooting. Plus, they are in the middle of nowhere, there being hardly twenty houses in the community, and there are very few trees around, if one could call them trees. One of the first questions he asks is:
‘Why does anyone want to live here? Are they all being chased by the dudes back home?’
He consoles himself with the thought that:
‘I guess there ain’t no one gonna find me out here.’
He doesn’t know how lucky he is, and it will take him a few years to realize it. Not only because he escaped his old life, but because he has the privilege of being brought up by a couple, symbolically called The Man and Mom, who are, I think, what a father and mother should be like. They are their own boss and they don’t take anything for granted; they work hard, help others in need, are pillars of the community, and at the same time they don’t pry into other people’s affairs.
‘No one could tell the Man what to do. He just did what he had to do.’
I think the Man becomes Bo’s hero, even without the latter’s wanting it to happen. He has a feeling that if he wanted to, the Man could even educate the mob bosses:
‘Bobby had a sudden picture of the Man explaining to the drug lords how they ought to attend church and kill deer for meat.’
They proceed to fill in the blanks of Bo’s education, surprised to find that Rand had done a pretty good job:
‘Your brother Rand was on his way to bringing you up right, at least as best he knew how.’
I am not going to list here the lessons he learns, suffice it to say that Bo is on his way to becoming an honest, hard-working, respectable young man. However, he can never fully escape his past, but learns to confront it head on, first when he finds out that, similar to the blacks in New York, the Spaniards in his new community are being abused by racists and in their turn they abuse the white people. He will also have to deal with the ever present problem of the drugs, but thanks to his new father and mother and their loving guidance, his future is full of possibilities.
My first reaction when I finished reading this book was to go and buy it for all my friends. This is a book I would want my kids to read too. So I recommend it to everyone. It is a great read, it hurts sometimes, but keep going because it’s worth it.