Title: Eden Mine by S.M. Hulse
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
In Eden Mine, the award-winning author of Black River examines the aftershocks of an act of domestic terrorism rooted in a small Montana town on the brink of abandonment, as it tears apart a family, tests the faith of a pastor and the loyalty of a sister, and mines the deep rifts that come when the reach of the government clashes with individual freedom
Jo Faber is packing up the home she and her brother Samuel inherited. For generations, the Fabers have lived near Eden Mine, but Jo and Samuel will be the last. Their family home has been seized by the state through eminent domain.
At the moment she hears the news of the bombing on the radio, Jo knows nothing, but she also knows that something isn’t right. The arrival of their friend and unofficial guardian, Sheriff Hawkins, confirms her suspicions. Samuel said he was going to find work. But soon it’s clear that he’s not gone, but missing—last seen by a security camera near the district courthouse at Elk Fork. And a nine-year-old girl, the daughter of a pastor of a storefront church, is in critical condition.
This isn’t the first time Jo and Samuel have seen the ravages of violence visit their family. Last time, they lost their mother and Jo lost her ability to walk. Samuel took care of her, outfitted their barn with special rigging so she could keep riding their mule. But he was never the same, falling in with a separatist group, getting a tattoo he’d flaunt, then spending years hiding. She thought he had finished with all that. But now he’s missing, and she can’t talk to the one person she trusts.
A timely story of the anger and disaffection tearing apart many communities in this country, S.M. Hulse’s Eden Mine is also a beautiful novel of the West, of a deep love for the land, of faith in the face of evil, and of the terrible choices we make for the ones we love.
Eden Mine by S.M. Hulse is a poignant, contemplative novel that takes place in the aftermath of a courthouse bombing.
Twenty-two year old Josephine “Jo” Faber is no stranger to tragedy but she can always rely on her older brother Samuel to support and assist her. But her world is upended when family friend Sheriff Cody Hawkins comes searching for Samuel. With a creeping sense of dread, Jo continues to insist her brother is on his way to Wyoming to search for work. But when faced with irrefutable proof Samuel bombed the courthouse in Elk Fork, Jo grapples with her staunch loyalty and love for her deeply flawed brother.
In the aftermath of the bombing, Jo clings tightly to her daily routine. She is also aware her days on the family ranch are limited due to imminent domain. She reluctantly packs up the household as she continues to refuse to help Hawkins and FBI Agent Will Devin find Samuel. Jo reflects on her reluctance to challenge his extremist beliefs as she tries to accept the reality of Samuel’s actions. She also desperately tries to reconcile the caring, loving brother she knows and loves against the truth that he committed a terrorist act. Jo also forms an unlikely (and uneasy) friendship with Pastor Asa Truth whose young daughter Emily is critically injured in the bombing.
Asa’s deep-seated faith is shaken in the aftermath of the bombing. He too has experienced heartbreaking losses but with Emily’s life hanging in the balance, he is questioning his long held beliefs and faith. While mostly calm and serene, Asa also experiences occasional flashes of rage as he lashes out at Jo.
Short passages in the form of letters provide enlightening glimpses into Samuel’s mind. Seven years older than Jo, he has been deeply affected by his family’s losses. He is deeply committed to caring for Jo but he also nurtures a deep-seated antipathy for the US government. Samuel remains in hiding as the manhunt continues. But with the date in which they must vacate the ranch quickly approaching, what will Samuel and Jo do next?
Eden Mine is a thought-provoking novel with an engrossing storyline and well-developed characters. Despite her age and isolated life, Jo is insightful, mature and quite wise. Asa is a gentle man who is flailing with his worry for Emily and his diminishing faith. Sheriff Hawkins bears the weight of guilt for past decisions. Samuel is a lost soul whose brief glimpses of self-awareness terrify him. The Montana setting springs vibrantly to life as Jo tries to paint her family ranch as her days in her home dwindle down. S.M. Hulse slowly steers the novel to a harrowing, tense conclusion that is realistic and satisfying.