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A stunning novel of loss, memory, despair and deliverance by one of Canada’s best young fiction writers, set on a Mormon ranch in nineteenth-century Utah.
Dorrie, a shock-pale child with a mass of untameable black hair, cannot recall anything of her life before she recovered from an illness at seven. A solitary child, she spends her spare time learning the art of taxidermy, completely fascinated by the act of bringing new and eternal life to the bodies of the dead. At fourteen, her parents marry her off to Erastus Hammer, a polygamous horse breeder and renowned hunter, who does not want to bed her. The role he has in mind for his fourth and youngest wife is creator of trophies of his most impressive kills, an urgent desire in him as he is slowly going blind. Happy to be given this work, Dorrie secludes herself in her workshop, away from Mother Hammer’s watchful eyes and the rivalry between the elder wives.
But as the novel opens, Hammer has brought Dorrie his latest kills, a family of wolves, and for the first time in her short life she struggles with her craft, dreaming each night of crows and strange scenes of violence. The new hand, Bendy Drown, is the only one to see her dilemma and to offer her help, a dangerous game in a Mormon household. Outside, a lone wolf prowls the grounds looking for his lost pack, and his nighttime searching will unearth the tensions and secrets of this complicated and conflicted family.
Inspired by the real events of the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857, Alissa York blends fact with fiction in a haunting story of a family separated by secrets and united by faith.
From the Hardcover edition.
hired man lowers his gaze. A moment passes before Joseph rises to take possession of the jug. He tilts it first over Baby Joe’s bowl, then Joe’s and finally his own. Ursula waits, spoon at the ready, arm aching to fall. But Lal thwarts her. Manages to hold his tongue. Joseph passes the jug to Brother Drown, who spills a small stream over his portion and passes it on. Ursula skirts Hammer’s empty chair and the one beside it, working the spoon like a chisel, gouging deep into the pot. She pounds
planting his seed—but just then he decided to hold his ground. “My dear, are we not also duty bound to draw our red brothers back into the fold? I haven’t your knowledge of Scripture, but—” “Scripture!” It was a rise such as he hadn’t provoked in her for some time. He let her see how it pleased him, showing the first sliver of a grin. She drew herself up. “‘This people shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people.’” “Indeed. But isn’t there some nugget about the scales of darkness
workday. A pauper’s wage. As she turns to cool the other temple, the face of her employer rises unbidden, long and wavering as a wraith’s. Miss Graves, you strike me as an intelligent young woman. Tell me, are you interested in silk? I am, sir. She answered without pause, without gauging the layers of his intent. He was old enough to have fathered her—to have fathered her poor dead mother, come to that. And he was married, even if Mrs. Humphrey, martyr to a trick heart, rarely left her bed.
low as to poison a spring. In any case, Kanosh’s people, who had done no worse than to come begging for bread, had doubled down over their cramps, turned circles in the dirt and died. By the time all stood ready for the initial raid, the Tracker, Younger Brother and a hundred other braves were fairly dancing to descend. It was the last and deepest dark, known to the People as second night. Filtering down from the sage-fragrant hills, they followed the ravine’s cut out into the black sea of
years previous by the time the girl began to bleed, and had already established himself as one of the finest hunters in the camp—fleet of foot, steady of hand, clear of mind. The day her mother and the other women led the girl away, he happened to glance up from the rabbit net he was mending as they passed. Until that moment, he had sometimes wondered why no woman had ever caught hold of him in his dreams. Now all was clear. He’d been biding his time. He could scarcely contain himself until