Into the Badlands

The House on Creek Road
by Caron Todd
(Harl. SuperRom #1159, $5.25, G) ISBN 0-373-71159-X
Todd has given us an interesting character study that is slow in the pacing, but a generally compelling story. The House on Creek Road is a combination “coming of age – finding peace with the past - finding love in the middle of some intrigue” story.

Elizabeth Robb has returned home to Three Creeks, Manitoba, from Vancouver after more than 10 years. She is a successful children’s book author and illustrator and has built a life for herself after leaving Three Creeks following a tragedy. Liz has returned home to help her ninety-something grandmother pack up her house to move closer into town.

The house carries lots of memories and lots of family tales, dating back 100 years. Liz carries a wealth of emotions, having lost her young husband in a tragic accident. She left Three Creeks filled with guilt, hate, uncertainty and unresolved anger. Upon her arrival, she is almost run off the road near a neighbor’s farm, only to discover the neighbor at Grandma’s house.

Jack McKinnon has an unresolved past, too. He has moved from Winnepeg to Three Creeks to get into farming. He wants to raise pumpkins, blueberries and Christmas Trees, all things he remembers with fondness from his childhood. Jack is a computer wiz, having developed an unbreakable code which he is trying to hide. But someone wants it from him.

The tale revolves around Liz coming to grips with her past by learning about herself and mingling with the friends and family she left behind. Jack, on the other hand, is excited about his future, but has to make everyone in this small town believe he is who he says, and is not some fly-by-night stranger out to milk grandma out of her money.

There are a plethora of secondary characters that enhance the story. Grandma is the kind of grandma we all want for our own children – she is kind and gentle. She bakes, she makes things, she sews and she loves. Then we have brother Tom and his wife Pam, cousin Emily and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends.

Jack is a subtle hero. He is generally quiet and reserved. Yet he is full of depth. As he unwinds and lets Liz see him as a man, he endears himself to her and to the reader. He doesn’t push, but he lets Liz know he wants more than a fling.

Liz’s character develops slowly and thoughtfully. She is like a rose slowly opening to the sun. At first, she is closed with little to say and much to hold inside. As she feels the love of her family, she confronts her past and starts to show the kind of person she can be – fanciful yet full of common sense – tender yet strong when she has to be – full of love and a willingness to forgive others as she forgives herself.

The intrigue comes into play slowly and stays low-key throughout the story. Even the ending is understated versus full of exciting adventure. This style fits in with the rest of the story. The basis of the conflict is that Jack has the code and others want it.

The House on Creek Road may not appeal to everyone. It is subtle with little real action, slow pacing throughout and centered almost completely on the characters and their quest to discover themselves. The story kept my interest, but didn’t have me rushing back to finish it. There is hinted at sexual tension, but nothing that you can get a hold of and keep you hopping. Jack and Liz do fall in love and it seems natural. But it was not a heart pounding activity at all.

If you are looking for an interesting late fall/Christmas story, then The House on Creek Road fits the bill. If you enjoy character studies, this is a good one.

--Shirley Lyons

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