In a few hours, Millie will say “I do” to Bump Anderson, a man who loves her through and through. But would he love her if he knew the secret she keeps? Millie’s mind is racing and there seems to be no clear line between right and wrong. Either path leads to pain, and she’ll do anything to protect the ones she loves. So she decides to bury the truth and begin again, helping Bump launch a ranch in the wilds of Colorado. But just when she thinks she’s left her old Mississippi life behind, the facts surface in the most challenging way. That’s when Millie’s grandmother, Oka, arrives to help. Relying on her age-old Choctaw traditions, Oka teaches Millie the power of second chances. Millie resists, believing redemption is about as likely as moving mountains. But Oka stands strong, modeling forgiveness as the only true path to freedom. Together, Bump, Millie, and Oka fight against all odds to create a sustainable ranch, all while learning that the important lessons of their pasts can be used to build a beautiful future.
* WARNING: If you haven't read the first book in this duology, INTO THE FREE, there are spoilers below.
So here we are in the second book and Millie has made a choice regarding a direction for her life. She remains unsure if it's the right choice, but it is a choice nonetheless. She knows she loves Bump, but does she love him enough to make it last forever? She's at least willing to give things a try.
Moving forward as newlyweds, they relocate from Mississippi to Colorado, where Bump's Mississippi boss owns a ranch. Bump is hired as the ranch manager, his boss hoping that Bump's skills with horses will turn the property into a thriving livestock business. In return, Bump hopes to set aside start up money for his own veterinary practice. The Andersons are getting the property to live on rent free, but the house on site is, to put it mildly, ROUGH.
While Millie is elbows deep in Suzy Homemaker mode, she struggles with a secret from her old life in Mississippi that she hesitates to reveal to Bump. Almost as if on cue, who makes a surprise arrival at the new homestead by Millie's Choctaw grandmother, Oka. Oka knows a thing or two about secrets and facing hardships head-on. Her presence becomes a much needed ballast for Millie while she gathers strength to face her fears and have that all-important but tough conversation with her husband.
To complicate things though, Bump seems to be a little too friendly (in Millie's opinion) with their new redheaded neighbor, Kat. Millie begins to wonder if Bump regrets his decision to start this new life with Millie, which once again leads her down the path of thoughts of whether she herself was too hasty in her own choices.
Though this story is supposed to take place during the years of World War 2, it didn't have much of that feel for me. Minus the occasional mention of food rations, dreaded telegrams from the War Dept. or use of pickup trucks, this could easily be set a hundred years earlier. I was a little disappointed by this, as I'm a huge historical fiction junkie who looks forward to being immersed in the time period I'm promised as the reader, but in this case I could overlook it because of the good story and the important themes behind it.
Once again (as she did with Into The Free), Cantrell illustrates the power of having a good support system around you as you move through life, people who honestly believe in you and truly want to encourage you to pursue your dreams. With Bump and Millie, it's also a pretty honest look at the rougher edges of marriage. How do you hang in there when the rosy glow fades a bit and real life sets in? It's tough because Bump was pretty likeable in the first book, but here he gets progressively less so. When Kat comes on scene, Bump's actions get slyly more and more disrespectful toward Millie, the way he dismisses her hard work or knocks her cooking in front of others, just as an example. Meanwhile, Millie is silently showing / battling symptoms of PTSD... but when your husband gets to where he seems annoyed by your very presence, how do you talk about such things?
Millie hangs in there though and eventually finds the means to craft a moderately happy life for herself. Personally, I don't really buy what Bump has to say near the end of the book. I'd even go so far as to say she settled. And it irked me that Bump makes himself out to be so innocent and Millie ends up being the apologetic one... Sure, Millie has moments where she catches herself wondering about River, but looking at Bump... there are some scenes in this story that looked seriously shady from a wife's perspective. I do kind of get Millie's line of thought when she explains why she's made these choices, but I couldn't help but close the book feeling that there had to be something so much more fulfilling out there for her than what she ended up with.
* For book groups: the most recent edition of the paperback includes discussion guide and writing prompts.
Something else to note -- while another of Cantrell's books, The Feathered Bone, has been packaged to match the new covers of Into The Free and its sequel When Mountains Move, I believe The Feathered Bone is actually not tied to Millie's story, but in fact its own separate story.
FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.
My reviews for Julie Cantrell's other books:
The Wheel of Time has become one of my absolute favorite series. I read 'The Eye of the World' many, many times and spent countless hours dreaming about this world that Robert Jordan had created. As the series went on (and on) it suffered by comparison with other books, reading the last five or six books only once, but I've found myself coming back to it and falling in love all over again. This time around I'm following the reread by Leigh Butler and discovered a new blog on Tor.com where a reader is discovering the series for the first time. I've never had much luck convincing friends to read what I'm loving at the moment/forever, so its fun to read along and discover the fandom attached to this particular series.
The world is driven by magic, two complementary sources of the One Power divided between men and women. The man's half was Tainted thousands of years ago, cursing all men born to channel it to be driven mad and must be hunted down before they can cause another Breaking of the World. Women have power in 'The Wheel of Time', and there are no shortage of strong female characters, complex villains, and a lot of moral grey areas for a story about a conflict between the Light and the Dark. There is a legend that a hero will come, The Dragon, a reincarnation of a powerful male channeller who will save the world from the Dark One - but not without a terrible price.
Some time ago I parted with my crumbling mass-markets, so I'm taking advantage of my bookstore connections (I couldn't convince my friends to pick up a book, but I make a living that way now, ha) and am buying the trade paperbacks with the new cover art.
'The Eye of the World' has many deliberate parallels with 'The Lord of the Rings', and so starts out in the remote community of the Two Rivers. Summarizing of 'The Wheel of Time' is something best left to professionals, so I'll just touch on the very beginning:
Rand al'Thor doesn't have much more on his mind then meeting his friends for the festival of Bel Tine and figuring out his feelings for pretty Egwene al'Vere. He sees a frightening figure in black on the road to Emond's Field and his life is changed after that. There is a deadly attack on the village by monsters thought to be mythical, and they were looking for someone. Rand finds himself, along with his friends the mischievous Mat Cauthon, the steady and faithful Perrin Aybara convinced by Moiraine, an Aes Sedai (a powerful magic user) and her bodyguard, or Warder, Lan, to leave their home immediately in order to protect it and themselves. Egwene discovers their plan and insists on coming so she can see the world outside. A traveling storyteller, a gleeman named Thom, joins the party, too. They are not too far out of the village before they are tracked down, literally, by the young village Wisdom Nynaeve al'Meara. She has been a mentor to Egwene and a leader in the village and feels responsible for the young people being dragged out into the world for dubious reasons.
The series is known for its length, roughly 11,000 pages altogether, and it's detailed world-building, but there is a lot of action in these first books. The story is almost completely from Rand's perspective with only as-needed POVs from Perrin and Nynaeve. Later books featured dozens of POVs - there must be a count somewhere, I would be surprised if it was well over 100 - but 'The Eye of the World' was about Rand's journey into the outside and his first steps on the road to his destiny. He explores a cursed and ruined city, meets a beautiful princess named Elayne, travels incognito on the ship of a collector of antiquities, 'plays for his supper' in taverns on the run, is hunted by darkfriends (people sworn to the shadow), witnesses ancient magic, travels to the decaying Blight and witnesses monsters firsthand. Along the way he befriends an ogier named Loial. Ogier are ten feet tall, live for centuries, and revere the written word. Loial is impetuous and set out on his own to explore the world, but is often confused by how different the world is from the old books he's written. He's wonderful.
It is amazing to read these characters all over again and see how far they come. They are altered forever by this journey, and this first quest ends up being only the beginning of a long road. There are flaws and regrettable errors in this series, but they came from Robert Jordan wanting to create this diverse, inclusive, complicated world, and he was from a background where certain possibilities didn't occur to him. He gets a lot of respect from me. These books are such an achievement and opened so many doors for me as a reader. I'm thrilled that I'm loving this book just as much now, without reservation, as I did when I was 13.
The Wheel of Time:
Next: 'The Great Hunt'