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.
Bestseller Paretsky, who has tackled weighty issues in her V.I. Warshawski detective series (e.g., the Holocaust in Total Recall), weaves a gripping contemporary novel around three farm families-the Grelliers, Fremantles and Schapens-that can trace their Kaw Valley, Kans., roots back to the 1850s, a time of violent clashes between antislavery and proslavery forces in "Bleeding Kansas." Their shared history is no buffer against the storm of changes that begin with the arrival of Gina Haring, a lesbian Wiccan. Chip Grellier, after being expelled from high school, enlists in the army and is killed in Iraq with devastating effects on his family. The Schapens' fundamentalist doctrines come to the fore when they discover "a perfect red heifer" in their dairy herd that may be a path to riches as well as to the second coming. Meanwhile, Gina stirs prejudices and passions to a fever pitch. Paretsky taps a different vein and strikes gold in this timely tale of fear and conflict in heartland America. Author tour. (Jan.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2007
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