Book Review: Burning Sky

28 Apr

731472“I remember the borders of our land, though I have been gone from them nearly half the moons of my life. But who there will remember me? What I have seen, what I have done, it has changed me.

I am the place where two rivers meet, silted with upheaval and loss.

Yet memory of our land is a clear stream. I shall know it as a mother knows the faces of her children. It may be I will find me there.“

Abducted by Mohawk Indians at fourteen and renamed Burning Sky, Willa Obenchain is driven to return to her family’s New York frontier homestead after many years building a life with the People. At the boundary of her father’s property, Willa discovers a wounded Scotsman lying in her path. Feeling obliged to nurse his injuries, the two quickly find much has changed during her twelve-year absence—her childhood home is in disrepair, her missing parents are rumored to be Tories, and the young Richard Waring she once admired is now grown into a man twisted by the horrors of war and claiming ownership of the Obenchain land.

When her Mohawk brother arrives and questions her place in the white world, the cultural divide blurs Willa’s vision. Can she follow Tames-His-Horse back to the People now that she is no longer Burning Sky? And what about Neil MacGregor, the kind and loyal botanist who does not fit into in her plan for a solitary life, yet is now helping her revive her farm? In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, strong feelings against “savages” abound in the nearby village of Shiloh, leaving Willa’s safety unsure.

Willa is a woman caught between two worlds. As tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart, the woman called Burning Sky must find a new courage–the courage to again risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow. Is she brave enough to love again?


Headshot3smbwLori Benton was born and raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American and family history going back to the 1600s. Her novels transport readers to the 18th century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history, creating a melting pot of characters drawn from both sides of a turbulent and shifting frontier, brought together in the bonds of God’s transforming grace.

When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching 18th century history, Lori enjoys exploring the mountains with her husband – often scouring the brush for huckleberries, which overflow the freezer and find their way into her signature huckleberry lemon pound cake.


My Impressions:

Burning Sky is Lori Benton’s debut novel. If I had not known that, I would never have suspected that Benton was not an author with several novels to her credit. This novel is just sooo good! Great sense of place, lyrical writing, complex characters, wonderful plot, thought-provoking themes — you just can’t get any better than this. And while Burning Sky is labeled an historical novel, it easily transcends the genre. If you have to categorize it, I would say it is literary fiction. Interested yet? Then go out and get it! You won’t be disappointed.

Willa Obenchain was abducted by the Mohawk Indians at the age of fourteen. Twelve years later she returns to her former home as changed as the settlement of Shiloh is. The Revolutionary War is over, her parents are missing and the status of their homestead is to be determined by a magistrate. Having faced loss repeatedly over almost half her life, Willa is determined to live alone, without any chance of getting hurt again. But of course life takes over — a wounded naturalist lays across her path, as do two orphaned half-breed children, and her Mohawk brother. There are also those who cannot let the past remain in the past and are determined to drive Willa from her land.

Burning Sky is a novel with many strengths. Benton has created a world long past, but very real to the reader. The frontier of New York in the 1780s is depicted with historical accuracy. The characters, major as well as minor, are well-drawn, having a complexity that adds depth to their motives and actions. Willa is perhaps the strongest female character I have experienced this year. Benton’s writing style is beautiful, especially in the conversation of Neil MacGregor. Who wouldn’t fall in love with a man who talked like that!

There is a lot to discuss with Burning Sky as well. My book club meets tonight, and I anticipate great conversation to come from this novel. Is love without loss possible? How does God shape families? Is a gentle spirit more desirable than physical strength in times of crisis? And then there is the whole topic of slavery vs Indian abduction — is there any difference?

Burning Sky is one of those books I will think about for a long time. And one I will recommend over and over.

Very Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

(Thanks to Waterbrook for an ARC of this novel. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase a copy of this book, click on the image below.

3 Responses to “Book Review: Burning Sky”

  1. Lori Benton April 28, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    Dear Beckie, you know how to make an author swoon. THANK YOU ever so much for this thoughtful and articulate review. ♥

    • rbclibrary April 28, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

      You are very welcome. Loved the book and am looking forward to reading more from you. Thanks so much for stopping by!


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