Across the street from the Sheldons live an older couple who take Alfred under their wing, and it is they who introduce him to the history of the buffalo soldiers - African-American cavalry troopers whose reputation for integrity, honor, and personal responsibility inspires the child.
Before life has a chance to settle down, however, Terry, who has never been unfaithful to Laura, finds himself attracted to the solace offered by another woman. Their encounter, brief as it is, leaves her pregnant with his baby - a child Terry suddenly realizes he urgently wants.
From these fitful lives emerges a lyrical and richly textured story, one that explores the meaning of marriage, the bonds between parents and children, and the relationships that cause a community to become a family. But The Buffalo Soldier is also a tale of breathtaking power and profound moral complexity - and exactly the sort of novel readers have come to expect from Chris Bohjalian.
©2002 Chris Bohjalian; (P)2002 Random House Inc., Random House Audio, a Division of Random House Inc.
"Bohjalian writes honestly and often movingly." (Publishers Weekly)
"Tender...[written] with poetic skill." (Library Journal)
After reading Bohjalian's Trans-sister Radio, I approached Buffalo Soldier with high expectations. While vastly different in subject matter, this book shares the lyricism, and freshness that creates memorable characters and situations out of everyday life.
We follow Laura and Terry through the loss of their twin daughters, as they move through their grief; fighting to stay together when they are too damaged to continuing loving. And at times, it seems so much easier to cut their losses, and move on.
Particularly touching, is Bohjalian's unromantic depiction of Alfred, a young foster child struggling to create a family of his own, and to win a place in the hearts of two broken, flawed adults.
Written with a sure hand, you will weep, rage, and rant with, (and sometimes, at) the characters. The journey is strong, but the resolution seems strangely too easy- wrongs too easily forgiven, and forgot, though perhaps with all the preceeding turmoil, the characters have earned a break.
The story is well narrated, bringing small-town Vermont and its inhabitants to poignant life.
What a wonderful book. Sometimes, in listening to it, I could hardly breathe waiting for what happened next. There is an edge of tragedy here, starting with the real tragedy of the death of twin girls. Death, renewal, the way families are formed and changed, marriage and love affairs - this book tackles large ideas. On top of that, one of the main characterw, a foster child, is a child of color, and that is handled especially gracefully, with a focus on him as a person, not as an icon of his race.
I liked the characters very much - they seemed real and the way they dealt with life rang surprisingly true to me. The only thing I didn't like was the narrator's cloying and breathy voice. She often trails off as she reaches the end of a sentence, in an annoying way. Her voice seemed wrong for this book.
Chris Bohialian likes to explore ethical dilemmas and "The Buffalo Soldier" is another assay into that genre. This time he presents a typical domestic triangle but with some unconventional and unsentimental twists - a black foster child, a pregnant "other woman" defying conventional morality and her unsupportive family and providing the ironic twist in that the female spouse in the triangle has lost twin daughters and cannot have any more children. Added to that these characters seem to feel only mild responsibility for their own actions, only self-aware in a token sort of way of how their behaviors are affecting others. They all seem to have that sense of entitlement, that politically correct concern and empathy for large groups of people but none for individuals. And how appropriate that they end up being saved from the consequences of their actions by another natural disaster. However, the book is interesting, fast-moving and entertaining and full of nuance in all its human interactions. A very deep psychological suspense pervades, equal to the sustained suspense of the most thrilling whodunits. I loved reading it, as I love reading all Bohialian's books, and although I enjoyed hearing about the Buffalo Soldiers from the Civil War, and considered the comparison to Alfred's situation to be a valid one, I did not think the interjection of actual quotations was an essential element and I found the episodic appearance of the deep male voice disorienting. Having said all that, though, I can't wait until he comes up with another one!
One of this author's gifts is the ability to get right inside the head of his characters. For instance, how it really feels to be a black kid in a white rural community. A really good fast paced story that explores different kinds of relationships. I recommend this book.
When I first downloaded this, I was unsure if I was unsure that I would like it. I found it enthralling, touching and very funny in parts. Highly recommended.
If an audiobook doesn't gain my interest in 6 hours, I don't have enough hope to continue. The second half of Buffalo Soldiers may have been great, but the author never gave me any reason to care about what happened to the characters. We gain no insights into what makes them tick, or why they bother to interract. As the story slowly continued, it never really progressed. I love listening to books to pass the time along my journeys; this one took me nowhere.
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