GRAVE TALKER by Linette Widen
801 N. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
Genre: Fiction/Pioneer Adventure
Rating: Very Good
ISBN: 1932581626, $18.00, 328 pp.
As the back cover gives a realistic synopsis of this story, allow me to quote:
"When seventeen year old Jim Foster leaves his Ozark home during the spring of 1890, he heads west to begin a new life at a cattle station. What he doesn’t realize is how ill-prepared he is for the challenges he will face during the journey.
"From the hills of Missouri to a farm in Kansas, he finds love with his childhood sweetheart along with the kindness of a family on the Plains. But a tragic turn of events test his faith in God and drives him away to the gold mines of Cripple Creek where devious characters threaten his life. As the twentieth century begins to unfold, follow Jim Foster as a twist of fate takes him to the silver mines of Idaho."
Grave Talker is the first book in the Foster saga. In the beginning, compelled to leave his family home, Jim stands up to his harsh father for the first time. In the end, he has come back home–not to stay–and will take his family on to Idaho. Grave Talker is an unusual title and refers to Jim and his mother who would go to the graves of their lost loved ones to talk with them. I don’t want to spoil the story for you so I won’t tell you too much more.
Linette Widen has written this story from a third-person point of view (POV) and in a saga-type style. Her characters and settings truly come to life, and she writes in a smooth, fluid manner. Her expert use of local vernacular in dialogue is a colorful facet in her style. In this book you will find family, romance, adventure, intrigue, tragedy . . . life. The novel is well-written and well-edited.
Allow me to share a small excerpt as a sample of Linette's writing, from page 319:
"A soft breeze rumpled his hair. He could smell the sweet earth. There was stillness and peace. Taking the small box with the locket, he loosened the dirt and placed it in the hole by her cross, then covered it up.
"She was with him again. She always came if he allowed it.
"‘I’m going’ to Idaho. Gotta start over’ gain. Got four boys yeh’d find amusin’. Yeh’d have a fondess fer Lucy, too. She’s jest like yeh. Gits all fired upset ‘bout things.’ He rested a moment, reflecting on the quiet. ‘Glad yeh was able to be here for yer final restin’ place. The Millers was good people. ‘N they’re stayin’. Ain’t gonna be no strangers mussin’ with yeh, so don’t worry.
"‘I ain’t done this in awhile so you’ll have to pardon me fer soundin’ like a bawbee. Quit gravetalkin’ back in Dornon when I went back.’
"There was so much he wanted to say . . . yet, nothing else he could say. He was looking forward to the new life with Connor and Irene in Idaho. Mary understood-he knew she did. Touching the small prayer book in the pocket of his vest, he said, 'I love yeh, Mary. See yeh in the Big Dipper.’"
Linette Widen originally wanted to write a memoir of her ancestors, but, lacking factual material, the story became a fictional novel imbued with true legends of her contentious relatives. The sequel, The Silver Womb, is the second book in the Foster saga.
Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 31, 2006