Bleeding Kansas

Sara Paretsky has a new book out. It’s not a V I Warshawski. It’s not even crime. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted Sara to leave crime behind, but that was before I read Bleeding Kansas.

I’m beginning to feel that Sara can write anything, and it will be very good. There was the Writing In An Age Of Silence last year, which wasn’t even fiction, but extremely good, and an interesting view of America today and yesterday.

That’s what Bleeding Kansas is, too: A reflexion on what rural America thinks and does. I’m still trying to work out whether the book is mainly anti-war, or if Sara also wanted to highlight the religious bigotry in rural areas. The book could even be a dig at naive city dwellers, who can’t just take their city ways into the country.

Bleeding Kansas tells the stories of several families in Kansas, and in particular how they deal with the Iraq war, and the presence of modern witches in their midst. There’s also a, possibly, Hebrew speaking calf, which causes tension between families who haven’t got on well for quite a while, but who still need to live as neighbours.

There is a fourteen-year-old girl called Lara, who reminds me a lot of V I. Her father Jim is a very decent man, who struggles with everything that happens to his family, and still hangs on to his integrity. Contrast that with their neighbours’ son who “had been an enthusiastic bully since he started first grade”, and his awful father, and really horrendous grandmother.

This is a great portrait of a less familiar America.

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