Soul of a Crow picks up with Lorie, Sawyer, and the Carter brothers still making their way across the Midwest to Minnesota. The loss of Gus, who had been such an integral part in each of their lives, hangs heavy over the group; but in a cruel twist of fate, his death has allowed Lorie and Sawyer the freedom to finally be together.
The second book in the series is darker than its predecessor and explores the emotional aftermath of the Civil War. We see into Sawyer’s past and learn just how troubled, heartbroken, and haunted he was by the ghosts of family and friends who had lost their lives, as well as those whose lives he had taken. He had turned to alcohol to dull his pain and it was gentle Gus who helped him to understand that life was worth living and that he’d come too far and survived too much to just give up. We come to understand how Sawyer was able to ride away from Lorie, namely because Gus was there to take care of her, the way he had cared for Sawyer years ago.
Misfortune is never far behind them, but at least the first half of the book provides a much needed respite from the terrifying pursuit they endured in book 1. I have a soft spot for these situations, when characters that have been through hell and back and seemingly can’t catch a break are finally allowed to just relax and enjoy life for a spell. Seeing Lorie and Sawyer able to sleep in and relish peaceful time simply enjoying each other’s company reminded me of the way I felt when Jamie and Claire eventually got some time to themselves in An Echo in the Bone. Jamie and Claire were able to stroll through the streets of Edinburgh doing some mundane shopping for eyeglasses, but such a routine exchange was so much sweeter after all they had been through. Similarly, Lorie and Sawyer are given the down time to develop their relationship and truly get to know one another as they make their way towards their future homestead. It was good to see Lorie happy, eating rock candy, and later homemade ice cream on top of a quilt beneath a sprawling poplar tree, distancing herself from her former life and enjoying her newfound freedom.
As I said in my review of Heart of a Dove, I find myself completely enthralled by Williams’s descriptive writing and her gift for pulling the reader into the landscape. I start to feel myself bumping across the prairie, being warmed by the sun inside a canvas tent, or smelling the smoke from the fire as I listen to Boyd play the fiddle. One of her true talents lies in the ability to make the reader understand what it feels like to live the daily lifestyle of her characters, which serves to create a unique bond and emotional connection that is rare, and extremely impactful.
But my favorite part, by far, was the wedding scene. The Carter boys showed the depth of their kindness and compassionate natures as they took pains to provide Lorie and Sawyer with a proper wedding ceremony. Lorie wore their mother’s silk wedding dress that had been travelling alongside them in a cedar chest. (These are the types of details I relish, because I could so clearly imagine the fresh scent of cedar clinging to the cool fabric of the dress – what Sawyer would smell as he stood next to her – which just added another layer to bring it all to life so clearly.) And I was grinning from ear to ear when Malcom and Boyd wove wildflowers into Lorie’s hair in a scene that further endeared the Carter brothers to my heart. As much as I wanted the wedding to commence for Lorie and Sawyer’s sake, I didn’t want the heartwarming preparations to end.
The past eventually catches up to them of course, and what results is challenging and heartbreaking to read. But I was sad to reach the end of the book and found myself immediately flipping back to reread my favorite sections. I am excited to get my hands on the third book, and I am especially interested in seeing what develops with Boyd, who particularly stood out to me this time around. Malcolm stole my heart in book 1 and now Boyd has done the same. I look forward to the final installment of this charming and captivating series.