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Comment: Ex-library book. The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting.
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Burning Sky: A Novel of the American Frontier Paperback – August 6, 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 208 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Q&A with Lori Benton

Q. What first sparked your interest to write Burning Sky?

A. When I began researching the 18th century history of what would become the United States, almost at once I was drawn away from the populated seaboard settings to the sparsely settled periphery—the mountain and over-mountain frontier—where cultures inevitably collided, in friendship, trade, and war. What captured my imagination were those individuals who were drawn across those cultural barriers and not only survived the encounter, but thrived, in some cases learning to straddle that line between two worlds.

The Mohawk Valley of New York—before, during, and after the Revolutionary War—is a setting rife with such encounters, played out against the greater conflict of what amounted to a civil war. I couldn’t resist learning more about these men and women—European, African, and Native American—who survived profound losses, made wrenching choices, and saw their families and communities fractured by violence and upheaval, leaving them to redefine their identities as nations, neighbors, kin, and individuals.

I began writing Burning Sky in 2009, but because I let a story germinate for months before writing, I can’t recall exactly when the character of Willa Obenchain first came to me. What I do recall is that a vision of a solitary woman on a journey, somewhere on the New York frontier, intruded upon me as I was going about my day. She was tall and strong, and she bore a carrying basket on her back. And somewhere, I was fairly certain, a collie was lurking.

Q. Who is your favorite character and why?

A. Because I’ve attempted to live inside each main character’s skin, to understand them and their concerns, I’ve formed a deep attachment to all of them. But to give an answer I’ll choose Neil MacGregor, the wounded Scottish botanist Willa meets in the first chapter. Neil MacGregor is a survivor. He has suffered a debilitating injury that might easily have caused him to give up his life’s passion, his dreams. It’s an injury that renders everyday life more challenging. Yet he’s pressed on, found ways to compensate, and discovered he is capable of more than he’d ever have known had that injury not occurred. I find that inspiring, and I hope readers do as well.

Q. Do you have any Native American heritage in your own family?

A. Possibly, if ancient family history is to be trusted. In my case it traces back to the settling of Jamestown, and the Powhatan people of eastern Virginia, where I was born. But that’s very far back in my family history. I came to adulthood with no connections to Native American nations besides friendships. My husband’s Cherokee heritage is more recent, and more certain. He’s descended from a Cherokee family who didn’t go west in the 1830s along the Trail of Tears. They hid from government officials and remained in the east, and thus never ended up on the Dawes Rolls. My husband’s Cherokee ancestor eventually settled in Louisiana, where my mother-in-law was born. Now in her 80s, she remembers her half-Cherokee grandmother well.

Q. What do you believe is Willa’s most relatable characteristic to readers?

A. During the war years, prior to the opening of Burning Sky, the inhabitants of the Mohawk Valley who didn’t flee in the face of continual attacks lived within walled forts to survive. Devastated by personal losses, Willa Obenchain has internalized this defensive position, forting up her heart behind protective walls. But behind those walls she’s still a woman of fierce compassion. When push comes to shove she follows that compulsion, even if it entails putting herself in harm’s way. I admire that in Willa.

Q. How do you hope Burning Sky will affect readers?

A. I’m a storyteller first and foremost. As such I hope readers are entertained by Willa’s story and transported to her 18th century world to experience situations and challenges most of us (thankfully) don’t encounter in our daily lives, but that hold abiding interest nevertheless. Beyond that… I’ve heard it said that no two people who read the same book… read the same book. Each reader brings to the story a lifetime of experience (and opinions, wisdom, burdens, questions, preferences, and dislikes). It’s a wonderful, unpredictable chemistry that can happen between the reader and the story world. Sometimes the chemistry is strong and good. Sometimes it isn’t there at all. But if a reader should turn the last page of Burning Sky and find herself reminded that through trials and tears we have a heavenly source from which we can draw comfort, courage, and strength to help in time of need, I’d be thrilled.

From Publishers Weekly

A bruised reed He shall not break, and a smoking flax he shall not quench: that's the theme resonating through this lovingly rendered historical-romantic homage to the men and women of the American frontier after the Revolutionary War. It is a harsh time in an even more trying place. Willa Obenchain, also known as Burning Sky, is a woman born of white men, yet raised in the Mohawk tribe. By returning to her past, she seeks to find the strength to stand and flourish when everything around her has fallen. The only flaw in this well-researched, vivid tale is the off-putting repetition of the trials facing Willa and her companions. The intricate exploration of human emotion is riveting, evoking strong sympathetic responses. Much of the novel's allure comes from the depiction of faith as a touchstone—something to be lived with love, humor, and devotion. Agent: Wendy Lawton, Books & Such Literary Agency. (Aug.)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: WaterBrook (August 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307731472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307731470
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (208 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #656,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Trudie Barreras VINE VOICE on June 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Though I've often been a bit bemused by the selections on my "targeted newsletter" from Amazon Vine, Benton's delightful novel, offered in the June issue, was an arrow right to the bulls-eye. In my pre-teen reading experience, I recall being enthralled by a tale of a girl captured by Indians in Colonial times that was serialized in the "Jack and Jill" magazine. During my time of reading mysteries as my primary genre, I enjoyed the series by Margaret Coel, as well, of course, as the classics by Tony Hillerman. With two of my own daughters married to Navajo Indians, and five of my grandchildren therefore being in the once-maligned category of "halfbreed", it is obvious that this story could not help but resonate with me.

This novel has several things that in my opinion make it much more than just an exciting story. As a "faith-based romance", it avoids the excessive emphasis on sexual encounters that has recently developed in popular literature. However, the author is by no means prudish in her discussion of the realities of human love and attraction, and treats interracial liaisons with sensitivity and authenticity. It is obviously historically accurate and gives a clear understanding of the tragedy of the way in which the Eastern Tribes were caught up in the conflicts of the Revolution. Simultaneously, Benton does an extremely successful job of developing the characters, who are extraordinarily diverse. The two children, so important to the narrative, as well as Willa's friend Anni and her impaired brother Francis, are highly sympathetic and completely believable. Even the "villains" are depicted as more complex than caricatures of evil.

The prose is richly descriptive, but not distracting from the tension and drama.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a truly magnificent novel on several levels.

As a historical novel, it brings out the attitudes and prejudices that were prevalent during those days in which our country was developing.

As a romance, it is refreshing to come across a completely clean love story that doesn't wallow in excessive sexual scenes. The triangular love story was well developed with Willa, the Scottish Neil McGregor and the native Joseph.

As one who might have become educated as a botanist had I chosen differently, I enjoyed the details of Neil McGregor's botanical research.

As a Christian novel, I was glad to see the scriptural and spiritual references scattered throughout without getting in the way of the continuing story.

As an overall good read, this is most highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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!
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book so impressed me that I will include it with my American History curriculum next year. The author researched it well and it tells an important story about the aftermath of the American Revolution in this country. It also helps one understand the culture of the Native Americans at that time. This is the story of a woman who was kidnapped by Indians before the war and returned to her childhood home after the war as an adult. What she found was very different from what she had left behind. As she is returning home, she rescues a Scots doctor from the East who is in the area to catalog the flora and fauna. The characters in this book are Christians and that is woven so gracefully into the book that it does not seem contrived or preachy as in some Christian novels. The story line is so interesting and compelling that I never wanted to put this book down. I think this could become a classic.
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