The Road to Cardinal Valley
by Earlene Fowler
(Prime Crime, $25.95, NV) ISBN 978-0-425-25284-0
****
This sequel to The Saddlemaker's Wife is a departure from Earlene Fowler's quilt mysteries featuring folk historian Benni Harper. It is not a mystery in the traditional sense, bringing the widow of Cole McGavin back to Cardinal where she left the family that took her in as their own - Cole's Aunt Birch and Uncle Bobby, his brother Lucas, her former sister-in-law, niece and his best friend Ely.

After Cole's death, Ruby left to live with her brother Nash in Nashville; Nash's life has hit the skids drinking too much and losing his girlfriend. Ruby makes the decision to bring Nash to Cardinal, sure that the people she loves will be able to help and heal him. Ruby and Nash have many demons having been abandoned by their mother who left to pursue a singing career and being put in foster care when social services realized their father was on the road most of the time.

Now both know where their mother is, but neither is inclined to look for her until Nash gets himself in a situation that Ruby can't help him out of alone. She goes to Arizona to bring Etta to Cardinal, the place Ruby thought would heal everyone, herself included, but comes to realize that the grace she and Nash need to fix their lives will not just float down and find them, they have to be active participants in their survival.

Wonderfully drawn characters, most flawed in their own way, populate this small town with its history and traditions steeped in Native American heritage and the settlers who went west seeking their fortune or a dream. Ruby is still grieving her husband's death, but is also grieving the family she never had growing up and the family she fears she'll never have as she grows old. Cardinal offers a safe place to heal and to start the next part of Ruby's life as she is able to put her past behind her and look ahead to her future.

-- Jennifer Monahan Winberry


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