Sunrise Song by Kathleen Eagle
(Avon, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-380-77634-0
Once in a great while, a book comes along that is so intelligent, so riveting, so utterly flawless that it should be required reading for every romance reader on the planet.

This is such a book.

Kathleen Eagle has used her considerable writing talent to craft a superb tale of family ties, betrayal, and redeeming love. And she has chosen an unusual format in which to do it -- a frame story within a fictionalized account of a little-known incident in American history, concerning an asylum for insane Indians in South Dakota.

The book contains two romances whose consequences are intertwined. One concerns Michelle Benedict, a teacher with an interest in Indian history, and Zane Lone Bull, a Vietnam vet and ex-con searching for his brother's murderer. The time is 1973.

The other concerns Rachael Trainor, a dedicated nurse, and Adam Lone Bull, an inmate at the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians. This story takes place in 1933. These two stories are told together, intermixed throughout the novel.

Eagle never tries to hide the connections between these characters. We're not long into the story when we know Adam and Rachael were Zane's parents, unknown to him. We know Zane's Uncle Martin was an inmate at the asylum, where he was the victim of unspeakable brutality. We know Michelle is Zane's hope for the future, and their love can finally bring meaning to his life and an understanding of his past.

These are honest, flawed, wonderful people. We rejoice with Zane when he finds this loving woman, and they quickly realize they are right for each other. We agonize with Rachael and Adam as they try to defy the odds and make their love a reality in every sense of the word. Most of all, we are gripped by the tragedy of the inmates, suffering a hellish existence behind walls where few care to look.

Reading this book is like watching a tapestry being woven before your eyes. Some of the threads are shining and beautiful; some are flawed, and some are ugly and repellent. All of them combined interweave to complete a picture that can only be viewed as a whole. In her story of the Hiawatha Asylum and the people who were its inmates, Eagle has created a work of art. It's all the more compelling because it is based on fact.

This book won't appeal to every romance reader. Those who like their plots light and fluffy and a bit mindless will no doubt toss this book aside. But those who are willing to be disturbed, to ache, to rage, and above all, to believe that even the briefest of loves is a thing of joy, will consider this book to be a treasure. It is impossible to read this novel and not be deeply moved, and that's the mark of the best stories in any genre. I vote for having it bronzed.

Thank you, Kathleen Eagle.

--Cathy Sova

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