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Wyoming Territory, 1870.
Elijah Carter is afflicted. Most of the townsfolk of South Pass City treat him as a simpleton because he’s deaf, but that’s not his only problem. Something in Elijah runs contrary to nature and to God. Something that Elijah desperately tries to keep hidden.
Harlan Crane, owner of the Empire saloon, knows Elijah for what he is—and for all the ungodly things he wants. But Crane isn’t the only one. Grady Mullins desires Elijah too, but unlike Crane, he refuses to push the kid.
When violence shatters Elijah’s world, he is caught between two very different men and two devastating urges: revenge, and despair. In a boomtown teetering on the edge of a bust, Elijah must face what it means to be a man in control of his own destiny, and choose a course that might end his life . . . or truly begin it for the very first time.
My first read by Lisa Henry, and even though I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy it, I’m uncertain of how much exactly I did enjoy it, because :
On the one hand,
I liked that she didn’t make it easy to get Elijah. He is hungry for love, yet keeping at arm’s length the one person the most important to him; probably because he is hungering for recognition even more. He is brave and smart, yet wallowing in his feelings of inadequacy. He is sweet and compassionate, yet doesn’t shy from violence. Angry and sad, afraid and hurt. Vulnerable and tough. Craving pain, thriving on comfort. In a nutshell, he’s a kid who doesn’t have it easy to figure himself out. A little bit endearing, a little bit irritating, he is an interesting character to try to understand, and not to be pitied, which I appreciated very much.
On the other hand,
As much as I enjoyed Elijah, I’ve been only very mildly invested in his story with Grady that I found predictable and running a little bit too smoothly considering the premises. I get that the author probably meant to show that things can be easy, but I felt like something was missing between hard dub con and sweet hurt comfort, like pivotal points were oh so conveniently resolved, like the initial complexity fell short.
In the end, I found Sweetwater being a sweet, surprisingly easy (it’s all relative, right?!) story under tough, complex exteriors, which isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, except that it was difficult for me to reconcile both with a coherent whole. Maybe I built wrong expectations, maybe I didn’t get Elijah, maybe I brought memories of other characters with me for the journey, I don’t know. I can’t pinpoint all the hows and whys, but here’s what I made of this read : I enjoyed trying to figure Elijah out, but I simply didn’t really get into his love story and I was left unsatisfied by his coming of age.
Now, that’s me. If hurt-comfort is one of your favorite tropes, the chances are that it will work beautifully for you. Some parts might be a little hard to read depending on the size of your comfort zone, but Grady is a sweetheart; I have no doubt that he will soothe your wounded soul and make it all worth it. I make no promise if you’re a hardcore badass.
RATING: 3,5 STARS