Not too long ago, my husband and I caught a portion of the Lonesome Dove miniseries on TV. We’d seen it before, years ago when it first aired, and loved it. This time, however, after watching for a few minutes, observing the deaths of some of the characters, we wondered exactly why we liked it so much in the first place. I mean, really, it is not exactly feel-good, happily-ever-after programming.
Well, Nina Vida’s novel The Texicans reminds me of Lonesome Dove in its honest, sometimes bleak portrayal of life in Texas in the mid 1800’s. No romantic rose colored glasses are employed in the telling of Joseph Kimmel’s journey to Texas to settle his brother’s accounts after his death. Vida writes with honest realism, almost matter of factly relating Joseph’s experiences with Indians and Rangers and the odd mix of fellow sojourners he seems to collect along the way.
1843, San Antonio, the Republic of Texas. Mexican-born Aurelia Ruiz finds that she may have the power to heal—as well as to curse. She definitely has the power to attract men. Willie Barnett, a young Texas Ranger, becomes infatuated with her. Her father sells her to him but insists on a wedding. To the other Rangers such a marriage is anathema. When Barnett is killed by Native Americans, pregnant Aurelia finds shelter in a Comanche camp.
Joseph Kimmel, a teacher in Independence, Missouri and son of a Polish Jew, receives word of the death of his brother in San Antonio and sets off for Texas. On the way his horse is stolen by a runaway slave. Rescued by Henry Castro, who is importing immigrants to populate his planned city, Joseph agrees to marry an Alsatian girl to save her from the Comanches, and they go forth to start their own ranch.
Then Joseph meets and is enthralled by Aurelia. When the Texas Rangers hear of the Kimmel ranch, where runaway slaves and a Mexican woman live as equals with the owner and his wife, they lynch the men and kidnap the women and children. To his wife’s consternation, Joseph cannot forget Aurelia.
In The Texicans, life is hard and times are turbulent. Survival is no guarantee and violence is an ever present threat. Though Vida deals with life just as it was, do not think her writing is merely a recitation of the facts. It’s a bleak tale, no doubt about it, but not so overdone that the reader wants to look for the nearest bridge to jump off. Rather, Vida’s prose is haunting in its simplicity and the desperation and determination of her characters remain with the reader long after the last page is turned. Like Lonesome Dove, it is difficult to express exactly why I liked The Texicans but I did.
Note: this book is unlike ones that I usually read and recommend in that there is violence and sex both. However, neither are salacious nor gratuitous. Vida deals with both in the kind of matter-of-fact tone that reflects the despair and danger of life in Texas’ early years.
Wife and mother, Bible teacher and blogger, Lisa loves Jesus, coffee, dark chocolate and, of course, books. Read more of her reflections at Lisa writes….
This looks interested (and thanks for sharing your “rating” of the book). I’ve been in the mood for reading a western and will keep my eye out for this one. 🙂
Nina Vida says
Thank you so much for the careful reading and lovely review!
gwendolyn b. says
I’m reading this now and really enjoying it. Glad to know you liked it too!