On rare occasions, books come along that have such depth and truth painted in a beautiful manner, they surpass mere literary purposes and become timeless accounts of their characters’ trials and journeys — even if they are fictional.
The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton is one such gem. I’m happy to be reviewing it today and sharing an insightful review with the author. Plus, Lori has graciously offered to give away an autographed copy of The Wood’s Edge to one of my readers!!! You can find instructions for how to enter the giveaway at the end of this post.
The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.
On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald’s wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.
When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood’s edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin’s absence, another unaware of his twin’s existence. And for Anna, who loves them both–Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him?
Lori Benton has a way with words that completely immerses the reader in the story – the setting, characters’ hearts, the smell and feel of the woods, the clothing, and the feelings of opposite cultures. You might recall how much I LOVED one of her previous novels, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. It still remains one of my all-time favorite books.
I’m sure it is challenging to write a complex story that spans over several years’ time, but Lori makes it seem effortless. Small gaps in time are traversed while maintaining ongoing emotions of the characters and with no lull to the pace of the story. From the beginning, the reader is torn between two worlds (much like the characters themselves are), that of frontier colonial America and generations of established Oneida Indian culture.
Without saying too much, I did love how Lori chose to develop a certain romantic relationship between two of the characters. This relationship was a little unexpected initially (though I was rooting for it!) and seemed, at times, an impossibility due to the characters’ circumstances. But it was sweetly developed in the story in a way only Lori could write!
Within this story, Lori has included the unique perspective of the events leading up to the Revolutionary War from the Oneida tribe’s viewpoint (specifically, the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, to which the Oneidas belonged). The attention to detail and the historical research included in The Wood’s Edge make this a rich and fascinating read.
With themes of mercy, grace, and forgiveness, the characters of The Wood’s Edge face lessons wrought through choices. Choices of love, hatred, following God’s path, or sin. These choices shape who the characters become, whether right or wrong, with consequences that can only be overcome through forgiveness.
I could go on talking about this book for a long time. There is so much I could still say about the characters – the faithful missionary who shared the simple truth of Jesus’ sacrifice, the friend who becomes a mentor to Anna, or the supporting characters who offer words of wisdom in the midst of great loss. Or, I could save us both some time, and you could read it for yourself! Trust me, it will be time well spent.
Alright, next I get to share my interview with author Lori Benton!
What was the inspiration for The Wood’s Edge?
In writing my previous published novels, Burning Sky and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, I recognized my passion for telling stories about people caught in a middle ground—between cultures, identities, social classes, world views, etc. So I was looking for a setting and historical situation through which to weave another story of this kind, something similar to those previous titles but not exactly the same. I began thinking about the back story I hinted at in Burning Sky—the political conflict on the New York frontier, during the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, that divided not only colonists but also the Iroquois Confederacy. Then there was that terrible battle called Oriskany in 1777…
Around that time I read an article about twins born to a multiracial couple where one twin was dark skinned, the other fair. They were quite a startling contrast. That snagged my attention. I began asking myself the “what if” questions that authors do. What if a set of twins like these was born in the 18th century? What if one of them was raised never knowing he had a different heritage than his skin proclaimed? What if I set this against that Revolutionary War backdrop and put one twin on one side of the conflict, one on the other?
That’s the short story of how The Wood’s Edge grew into being.
What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?
The Wood’s Edge is a story of grief and healing, vengeance and forgiveness, and man’s justice verses God’s mercy. I hope the journey these characters take will be one that touches readers hearts in all these areas and more. God’s ways are often counter to the impulses of the human heart and mind. Sometimes it’s in dying that we find life, or in laying down a right that we find the peace we truly need.
What was most challenging about writing a story set in mid-18th century America?
It’s always challenging to force myself to think like a person from the mid-18th century and not with my own 21st century world view. People from that era wouldn’t necessarily react to situations as we would. The only way to absorb something of their mindset is to read widely in primary sources like diaries and journals and letters.
Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies?
When I’m not home writing I love to get out into the mountains, take a hike along a river, enjoy our wonderful forests and mountain vistas. We try to do that on Sundays after church. Heading up to church is an excursion into the mountains too, as that’s where our fellowship is situated. As for hobbies, right now writing doesn’t leave time for them, though I wouldn’t mind getting back to my abandoned love of wildlife painting.
If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?
I’d just pick the 18th century purely for research purposes—if I could get back. Otherwise I really like living now, with the hope of Christ’s return so near.
What are you currently reading?
Remnants: Season of Fire by Lisa T. Bergren
Grace Intervention by Bill Giovannetti
A book on blacksmithing for research
Thank you so much, Lori, for taking to time to answer my questions! I look forward to seeing what’s next in this “Pathfinders” series. Also, a huge thank you to Lori and Waterbrook Multnomah for sharing an advance review copy of The Wood’s Edge with me.