“ONE FOR THE BLACKBIRD, ONE FOR THE CROW”
by OLIVIA HAWKER
It’s 1870 on the eastern Wyoming prairie, in the shadow of the Bighorn Mountains. Two families (the Bemis family and the Webber family) with adjoining homesteads eke out a living on their farms, about 20 miles from the nearest neighbor or town.
When Ernest Bemis discovers his wife, Cora, involved in an affair with their only neighbor, Substance Webber, mild-mannered Ernest shoots and kills Substance then surrenders himself to local law enforcement. He’s sentenced to two years in prison, leaving both families without a “man of the house.” With winter approaching, Cora asks Substance’s widow, Nettie Mae, if the two families could share resources. Reluctantly, she agrees to let Cora and her 4 children move into her home, joining her and her teenaged son. It’s a long, hard winter for these two women living under the same roof…with such trauma behind them.
THE REST OF THE STORY:
Olivia Hawker’s poetic and lyrical storytelling whisked me away to the raw, gritty pioneering days as she wove a story of resilience, acceptance, forgiveness, family, friendship and survival, jealousy, resentment and guilt… under the most difficult and awkward circumstances possible. Overflowing with beautiful language, lovely images and finely drawn characters, I could feel the cold, the harsh winter winds and even the dirt that came with farm living on the prairie. To say Nettie Mae and Cora wanted nothing to do with each other is mildly stating the situation, but as they stared down an impending Wyoming winter with no men to work their farms and no other neighbors within miles, they realized they must rely on each other and their eldest teen children…Nettie Mae’s Clyde (16) and Cora’s Beulah (13)…both responsible and knowledgeable about the workings of a farm, to survive the brutal winter. This story is all about connections and the long-lasting consequences of the decisions people make when they lose connections: between family members, between neighbors and community members, between humans and the natural world…and the connection of humans with the world after life has ended. It’s an epic novel and well worth the read. Olivia Hawker is at the pinnacle of her storytelling!