THE ASPEN GROVE
Independently Published (2020)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (7/2020)
“The Aspen Grove,” by Jane Fulkerson, is a western family saga in the tradition of a Louis L’Amour novel. Fulkerson writes about an Irish family, the O’Neal’s, who make their home and run their ranch in 1883 Colorado. True to the genre, this story offers up drama, family situations, and unexpected cliffs and curves.
Every family has its challenges, and the O’Neal’s are no exception. When a tragedy upends the family, everyone is tested, and the family finds out who they can depend on and who they can’t. They say a crisis can bring out the best in people or the worst, and Fulkerson has a good way of writing nuanced personalities and reactions in a grand western setting. Clearly devoted to the genre and her characters, she draws you into the story with detailed settings and descriptions, fully realized characters, and compelling conflict. Westerns are known for the white hat/black hat construct, and the author doesn’t disappoint.
Fulkerson is mindful to write her characters as human instead of unrealistically heroic or villainous. The men are strong and silent but have feelings too. The women are strong as well, and the author makes it clear that this family operates successfully because they all work together, love one another, and stand up for what is right. There is something romantically nostalgic about the way Fulkerson writes that makes you appreciate the clear roles and boundaries of the past, the hardships the people endured, and the taste of successes when they occurred. It also makes you appreciate the conveniences of today.
If there is any criticism, it is slight, and it would be that I wish the pivotal moment had been closer to the beginning of the book, but I understand the author was setting the groundwork first, and this takes nothing from the story itself. When the drama begins, it’s engrossing and suspenseful as it progresses. Sometimes you forget you’re reading and find yourself envisioning the story unfolding on a theater screen. Fulkerson has a skillful way of presenting historical facts as a natural part of the story, rather than a history lesson.
“The Aspen Grove,” by Jane Fulkerson, is a wonderful western about family and resilience. There is a lot to like about this book and these characters, and the ending is a special way to bring the saga to a close.