I read ‘Not My Father’s House’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.
Suzanna hates everything about her New Mexico mountain home. The isolation. The short growing season. The critters after her corn. The long snow-bound winters in a dimly-lit cabin.
But she loves Gerald, who loves this valley.
So Suzanna does her unhappy best to adjust, even when the babies come, both of them in the middle of winter. Her postpartum depression, the cold, and the lack of sunlight push her to the edge.
But the Sangre de Cristo mountains contain a menace far more dangerous than Suzanna’s internal struggles. The man Gerald killed in the mountains of the Gila two years ago isn’t as dead as everyone thought.
And his lust for Suzanna may be even stronger than his desire for Gerald’s blood.
This novel is part of a series, but it works very well as a standalone – you very quickly get to know the characters and their backgrounds and what has brought them to the mountains.
Suzanna is that rare thing in an historical novel – a woman who doesn’t fit in with the requirements of the time, who rails against the constraints of her life, but who isn’t allowed to overcome them. She has to conform, as women did, but this leads to frustration and misery.
There is some wonderful description in this novel, description that doesn’t overwhelm the narrative, and it is very easy to picture the beautiful, but often hostile countryside. There are some really horrible and upsetting moments, written without melodrama, that bring home the reality of the fragility and danger of life then, particularly for women.
The writing is polished, professional and technically sound. Characters are authentic and consistent. It’s refreshing to see themes like post-natal depression examined so sensitively here – something not often tackled in historical novels.
My only gripe is that some of the scenes of the mountain man are rather repetitive. He thinks the same things, does the same things, and I did feel that these episodes could have been cut. There is some repetition throughout the novel – while it is undoubtedly well-written, it could do with being cut back a little. I did find myself skipping over some parts.
That said, this was a really interesting read and I’ll definitely read more by this author.