Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett 352 pages
Former park ranger Karen Barnett has given historical fiction readers a wonderful series in her stand-alone novels set in America’s National Parks. Almost like a Ken Burns for readers! We get the history, the beauty and wonderful tales about characters that feel oh so real.
In this, her third novel, she takes us to Yellowstone National Park in 1933. The Great Depression has hit America hard, and the National Parks are no exception. Visitors to the park are few, causing the management not to open certain lodgings and other services. It’s almost a double whammy to park employees.
The protagonist is a young adult, Elsie Brookes, who has grown up in the parks. She desperately wants to go to college and become a teacher. She has been working as maid in the park’s hotels, but after four years, she still hasn’t saved enough.
I chuckled at the nicknames the park’s employees gave to position, terms like pillow pushers, savages, pack rats, gear jammers, etc. And I like the way Barnett let the reader know what each nickname represented without overtly doing so.
Poor Elsie. She is facing another summer with little hope of saving enough money for college. However, FDR’s New Deal comes to the rescue without officials realizing it. The year is 1933 and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is sending a group of men to help work in the park, looking for bug-infested copses, culling trees and all around manual labor. For most, this is the first time they have ever seen this much wilderness. Elsie is offered a second job as a teacher to the men who are coming, and she jumps at the opportunity.
Enter Nate Webber. The Brooklyn-ite shows promise. He is a hard worker and a born leader. But he has a secret that he will protect at all costs. When Elsie uncovers that secret, she vows to do everything she can to protect that secret, it makes for some dynamite reading.
I give “Ever Faithful” 5 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.