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SAVING SUSANNAH JONES by Carolyn Twede Frank
Carolyn Twede Frank has written a rugged, yet touching Western set in Colorado during the late 1800s. Saving Susannah Jones is a tribute to the men and women who faced what appeared to be insurmountable odds only to reach deep inside themselves and push on.
Susannah Jones has known little but hard work in her life. From the day her mother died giving birth to her little brother, Susannah has been expected to serve as cook and housekeeper for her father and brothers. With neither wages nor kind words, her days have been filled with drudgery. The few suitors who have attempted to court her have been chased away by her father. He and her oldest brother have led her to believe she’s unattractive and lacks any qualities a husband might wish for in a wife.
A dramatic change takes place in Susannah’s life the night a fire burns the Circle J Ranch house down killing her father and leaving her and her brothers homeless. Her brothers move into the bunk house with the ranch hands, and her brother, Stanley, assumes management of the ranch. He orders her to sleep in the barn. The large painful burn on her neck received in the fire needs treatment and she finally succeeds in convincing Stanley to let her go into town to see a doctor. She disobeys his demand that she see the old doctor in town and instead goes to the new female doctor who assists her in running away.
Susannah doesn’t get far. The coach is attacked by Stanley and one of his friends who pull her from the coach, demanding she return to her slave-like existence on the ranch. She manages to escape them and flees into the high Colorado plateau where she stumbles onto an abandoned Indian wickiup. A few days later she is discovered by Joseph Iverson, a taciturn homesteader with his own difficult background and problems. Gradually they learn to trust each other and form an alliance through a marriage of convenience, but Stanley wants Susannah back and someone seems determined to take Joseph’s land.
Ms. Frank has created characters with multiple layers. They have their doubts and fears, but push on to discover their own strengths. Susannah and Joseph refuse to stay down no matter how many licks they take. Readers will like and admire them both. Other minor characters are distinct individuals and through their words and actions display their inner ideals and qualities. Susannah’s younger brother, Logan, is proof a physical handicap, doesn’t deter a man from being strong and performing beyond expectations. The neighboring Indians are drawn convincingly as men and woman with a different lifestyle but holding strong ethical standards.
The setting for this story is a time period when farmers, ranchers, miners, and small towns were attempting to build. Some wanted to build an ethical society and some just wanted to build their own personal wealth. Conflicts were often resolved outside of formal laws. Sometimes life consisted of hard work, drudgery, and making do and sometimes it was beautiful sunsets, wide prairies, and majestic mountains. This story has its moments that will remind the reader of Grandpa’s stories and other times it brings back the old western movies we grew up on. I found it a refreshing change of pace from the usual books published today.
Carolyn Twede Frank grew up on the old John Wayne movies. Saving Susanna Jones is her fourth published novel and her second Western. Her other two novels were set in Europe during World War II. She and her husband live in Kaysville, Utah, and are the parents of five children.
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SAVING SUSANNAH JONES by Carolyn Twede Frank, Published by Covenant Communications, Inc., 202 pages, soft cover $16.99. Also available for eReaders.