I loved this book. There is an engaging plot and deeply developed, multi-layered characters. The setting is so richly drawn that it looms as another character in the story. But it is the writing – the writing that makes my heart respond with a flutter, an ache, a longing? I’m not sure how to describe it, and I’m also not sure if an excerpt, taken out of context will do the writing justice, so I’d better select carefully.
This is a love story told from Ann’s perspective. “She loved him so much that there was never anything else she might have done.” Her love for Wade was pure and encompassing and a motivation for the choices in her life. Guilt also plays a role in Ann’s choices, and is also a basic plot element.
The beauty is, as indicated above, the writing. When I first started to think about the beauty of this book, I looked up images of the landscapes described: the Camas Prairie Railroad on stilts; the plains; the mountains; Spirit Lake; Ponderosa, the most beautiful town in the USA. But when I started writing this post, I realized that it had to be the writing. It’s the first time I’ve ever thought about comparing writing to music, because of the visceral response it evoked in me. Ruskovich’s words share harmony, melody and rhythm, so that when combined, they touch the heart, the soul, the place where emotional connections live. I found myself drawing in a breath upon reading some particularly beautiful passages. Hopefully, the following will evoke a similar response in you, the reader of this, as it did in me when I read it in context. Wade has just returned home with a sledful of food and supplies, and a pair of frozen feet from trudging through the snow. He finds his wife sitting by the fire.
“Outside, the coyotes’ howls bore tunnels through the frozen silence. The ravens in the trees anticipate the spring, when they will nudge their weakest from their nests, this act already in their hearts, as if already committed. The garter snakes, deep in the ground, hibernate alert. Bodies cold, unmoving; minds twitching, hot. So many secret, coiled wills, a million centers spiraling out, colliding into a clap of silence that is this very moment in the house, this beautiful oblivion in which they love each other.”
I’m so glad that the food to represent this book is an out-of-the-ballpark winner. The recipe reminded my husband of a favorite cake his mother used to make, so he looked forward to testing the recipe with me. I’m not much of a sweet eater, but I kept going back for more. My husband pronounced it better than his mother’s! Do make this one.
3 cups flour ½ C brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda 3 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon 2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt 1 T almond milk or water
1 ¼ C vegetable oil 4 C apples, peeled and cut into ½ x 1 inch pieces
1 ½ C granulated sugar about 3 large (I used Gala, Fuji and Golden Delicious)
Preheat oven to 325º . Grease and flour a 9 by 13 inch pan.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the whisk, combine oil and both sugars, and mix until well blended.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla and mix again.
Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix thoroughly. (When I added the dry ingredients, I switched to the paddle attachment.) If the batter seems too thick add almond milk or water. By hand, fold in apples and and mix until evenly combined.
Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Remove cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before slicing. We ate half and froze the rest in individual servings because we couldn’t be trusted around it!