Book Review: Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett

Ever faithful karen barnett book review

Synopsis:

Vibrant historic Yellowstone National Park comes to life in this romantic mystery about a man hiding the truth, braving the west to become something more--and the woman who must confront his deception.

A man who can't read will never amount to anything--or so Nate Webber believes. But he takes a chance to help his family by signing up for the new Civilian Conservation Corps, skirting the truth about certain "requirements." Nate exchanges the harsh Brooklyn streets for the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, curious if the Eden-like wonderland can transform him as well.
Elsie Brookes was proud to grow up as a ranger's daughter, but she longs for a future of her own. After four years serving as a maid in the park's hotels, she still hasn't saved enough money for her college tuition. A second job, teaching a crowd of rowdy men in the CCC camp, might be the answer, but when Elsie discovers Nate's secret, it puts his job as camp foreman in jeopardy. Tutoring leads to friendship and romance, until a string of suspicious fires casts a dark shadow over their relationship. Can they find answers before all of their dreams go up in smoke?

  • Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

  • Publisher: Waterbrook

  • Published: 6/18/2019

  • Pages: 352

  • Goodreads Rating: 4.38 Stars


Heidi’s Rating:

4 Stars

Recommend Drink Parings:

Tea: Herbal Tea

Coffee: Black Coffee w/Cream & Sugar


Forgiveness isn’t earned....It’s bestowed.
— Elsie's Mom

Why I Chose This Book:

I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher. I grew up in Wyoming and have been to Yellowstone many times so I was excited to read a book set in this particular area of the world.

First Initial Thoughts:

Elsie is a young 20 something girl working in Mammoth, Yellowstone as a maid. Over the summer she obtains a teaching job to a group of men for the CCC program. She is ecstatic that she can teach a group of people, even if it’s adults, as teaching is her passion and goal in life. She wants to go to College for education in the fall.

Nate is a young man that is a part of the CCC program. This program was started by President Roosevelt during the time. This was to help young men obtain jobs in National Parks because there weren’t too many other jobs in the country available. This was also the start of what we know as the 40 hour work week. Many of these men in this group had jobs they lost but worked 80+ hours previously. They were beyond grateful for having weekends and holidays off.

Their Elsie meets a young man named Teddy Vaughn. Teddy is absolutely smitten over her and thinks she is the ideal wife for him. However, Elsie has her doubts. Overtime Nate catches her eyes after meeting him one day in front of one of the geysers. I liked that Elsie had a mind of her own and didn’t wield to traditional standards.

I also liked Elsie’s friends, Mary and Rose. Mary reminded me of a more modest Samantha from Sex and the City. She loved getting attention from all the men in the camp. Rose is a long time friend of Elsie and develops a huge crush on Elsie’s cousin Graham.

Setting

I can tell Karen has been to Yellowstone before because it was accurately portrayed and I could imagine all the places in my mind as I read the book. This book made me miss this beautiful park!

Holding on to anger will only weaken you, like a tree rotting from the inside.
— Elsie's Mom

Final Thoughts

What I found interesting was that there was nicknames for all the people working in the park. I kind of found that odd in the beginning but got use to it by the end. This was actually based on real life back in the 30s so I found that interesting about the park.

I really liked Elsie and Nate together. I thought they encouraged and inspired each other in different ways. Nate taught her to forgive and learn to love herself for who she is. Elsie inspired Nate to be not ashamed of where he came from him and that he was truly an intelligent man.

I also liked that the fire mystery wasn’t the main part of the story- even though that was the main mystery. There was so much more going on in the story that I didn’t feel like the story dragged on at any point. I also really appreciated that mental illness and depression was a highlight in this story. Even though it wasn’t actually discussed, it was there in between the lines. During the 30’s it was hush hush when it came to mental illness and not many talked about it.

Even though this book was set in the early 30’s I had the assumption that it was set in the 50’s throughout the entire story. The way the people acted, the activities they partaken in, etc. reminded me more of the 50’s than the 30’s for some reason. So that was the only gripe I had with the story.

Would I Recommend?

Yes. Fans of Yellowstone and nature in general will absolutely enjoy this novel!

Q&A with Karen Barnett

Karen Barnett Author Pic

With this new story taking place in a few different locations throughout Yellowstone National Park, we’re curious—what’s your favorite thing about Yellowstone?

I feel like my answer should be something about all the incredible geothermal features like Old Faithful and the Mammoth Hot Springs. But to be honest, what impressed me most about Yellowstone National Park was the wildlife. On my last trip, I saw just about every type of creature Yellowstone has to offer, including bison, bears, and wolves. And when you think about how close the bison came to extinction, seeing such large herds grazing contentedly in the park is a bit like viewing living, breathing fossils.

The park’s staff used a variety of nicknames such as pillow punchers, gear jammers and pack rats. How did you discover and keep track of the long list of lingo the staff used during this era?

This was such a fun aspect of Yellowstone life to include. While I was poring over historical documents at the park, the archivist told me about these fun nicknames. She showed me songbooks that had been used by the campgrounds and hotels in this era, and they included a detailed glossary of the park lingo. Many of the silly terms are still used by the concessions staff today, and it sounds more whimsical than “maids,” “bus drivers,” and “porters.”

Through one of the character’s stories, you explore the topic of mental health, specifically depression. What was society’s understanding of depression during this time, and why did you include this in the storyline?

In the 30s, it wouldn’t be unusual to tell a depressed friend to just “cheer up already.” And the fact is, we still hear that sort of thing! With this storyline, I wanted to encourage people to keep a close eye on their friends and loved ones, and don’t just assume that the mood will pass. Sometimes it takes a caring person to intervene and encourage someone to get the help they need.

In Ever Faithful, I didn’t really get an opportunity to address the treatments for depression available in the 1930s, but it was really pretty nightmarish by today’s standards and the research left me reeling. I know we still have much to learn, but I’m thankful we’ve come as far as we have.

Which scene in the book did you most enjoy writing?

There was so much to love about writing this book, but the scene that I enjoyed most happens early in the story. During Nate’s first night in the park, he steps outside and experiences the incredible star-filled Wyoming night sky. It’s quickly followed by his first encounter with the Yellowstone night life—complete with ringed tails and furry black masks. This Brooklyn man had a lot to learn, but I couldn’t resist throwing him right into the joys of wilderness life.

What do you hope readers take away from Ever Faithful?

My hope for all three of the Vintage National Parks novels is that readers would get a sense of how God puts his great love on display in our creation. That’s hard to miss in awe-inspiring landscapes like our national parks, but it’s true even down to the tiniest bugs and leaves in our own areas—and even the human body itself. Sometimes we just forget to look. There’s a quote from naturalist John Muir at the beginning the book, “A thousand Yellowstone wonders are calling. ‘Look up and down and round about you!’”

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Have you ever been to Yellowstone?

the caffeinated bibliophile

Note: I was sent an ARC of this book to review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.