“Many Sparrows” by Lori Benton

Cover of titular book, featuring an illustration of woods and a river, with silhouetted leaved tree branches in the top corners and a bird above the titleBook: “Many Sparrows” by Lori Benton
Published by Waterbook Press on 29th August, 2017
Genres: Christian fiction, Historical fiction, Romance
Format: Paperback, 390 pages
Rating: 4/5⭐
Source: Blogging for Books (received for free in exchange for an honest review)
Goodreads

When settler Clare Inglesby is widowed on a mountain crossing and her young son, Jacob, captured by Shawnees, she’ll do everything in her power to get him back, including cross the Ohio River and march straight into the presence of her enemies deep in Indian country. Frontiersman and adopted Shawnee, Jeremiah Ring, promises to guide Clare through the wilderness and help her recover Jacob.

Once they reach the Shawnees and discover Jeremiah’s own Shawnee sister, Rain Crow, has taken custody of Jacob—renaming him Many Sparrows—keeping his promise becomes far more complicated, the consequences more wrenching, than Jeremiah could have foreseen.

Many Sparrows is a book that has “everything”—the romance, the faith, the heart, the love, the journey, the discovering, the heartbreak, the abduction, the murder, the war. Lori Benton does not hold back, in that the deaths are gory and heartbreak shattering.

Many times, I found it difficult to read, much like some movies are hard to watch, because questions stem first from the reader—and from the start, I knew what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know what to expect, but I had the gist of what this book would be about and hold in terms of emotion. I picked it up and read some to put it down for months, because I knew where it was headed. From the first page of the story, intuition screams this is all a bad idea—something tragic is going to happen! I’m all for tragedy—I love it—but the tragedy of Many Sparrows was a heavyset, a slow-burn story bearing the same tension as that of a steamy romance novel between two lovers who cannot have sex…which is saying a lot, because there is romance in this novel.

This book was different, so I’m going to focus more on the things that stood out to me most instead of going through a list of things to cover like I usually do.

Romance not required

If you removed the romance from the book, you would still have a book—still have a story worth telling. Such is the same with television series The 100, which focuses more on the apocalyptic dystopia themes than on the romance, unlike its book counterpart. Clare does not exist solely for the man; she’s the leading lady, but if we removed her from the book altogether, there would be no plot.

Anyone could have happened upon that trail, but regardless of anyone showing up, Clare would have begun such a journey with her newborn child—she’s stubborn like that. And Jeremiah, the man who had happened upon her, had done his best to convince her she should stay behind and let him go about this journey, but us protective, stubborn people do not back down so easily! She wasn’t having it.

I quite liked this—a slow-brewing romance story underlining the heart of the story. She didn’t need a man to fall in love with, so what drove the plot was not a will-they-or-won’t-they but a mother’s need for her son—the root of every atom of development in this novel.

If love happens, it happens slow and patient and kindly—and not because the man decides he wants the leading lady and thus takes her.

Respectful of another faith

Something I never see in books containing any ounce of Christian faith is that of respecting another’s faith. Several Indians converted to other religions over time—such is the result of what happens through influence of Englishmen—but in every book even hinting at the Christian faith has existed a better-than-thou attitude with an “I don’t want you to pray to your god, because you’re wrong” statement following. It’s gross—I cringe even when it happens in reality.

So I was glad to not have had to read through an uncomfortable occurrence of such an event in this book, for I would have likely put it down on the spot—I’m so tired of those kinds of people, acting as if they’re that much better a person because they spat so much hate onto another.

Community effort

Something I love most about my native ancestors—and continue to feel warmth over as other native peoples of America fight to protect the land—is the way they work together, regardless of race or religion or any other prejudice. It warms my heart. I love it! When Clare’s baby was sick, the women worked together to create a steam hut in the menstrual hut—ah, yes—to help break her fever.

Slow-burn plot

Slow-burn plots are annoying when they take forever and more time is put into world-building than into the plot itself—such was a major issue I had with Ninth City Burning. However, Benton does well with combining world-building into plot continuing, though I did sometimes struggle to keep my attention on it; it was nice to read about the setting here and there, but I grew often impatient because I wanted so much to continue reading the story part! I wanted to know how things were gonna turn out!

Overall

I gave it 4 out of 5 stars, because the writing was at times on a literary-like level, then that of a fragmented level. I’m not super font of the latter, as explained after Here and Gone, but I pushed regardless because I loved the story and wanted to know how it ended.

I admired greatly how war and gore and murder were not watered down, like in other Christian novels I’ve read—Benton doesn’t hold back! I didn’t expect Many Sparrows to be of the Christian fiction variety, but selected it out of the others for its Native American themes; regardless of religion, the story is good and development of characters divine. There is perhaps something for everyone in this novel.

P.S. The first two chapters are available to read, one featuring Jeremiah’s perspective and the other Clare’s.

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