My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I met Garth Murphy several years ago surfing here in southern Baja with my board shaper. I am fortunate to be able to call him a friend and neighbor – he is a thoughtful, sensitive and intelligent man with an interesting history of his own. His book reflects those qualities.
I was quickly entranced by the historical details and beautiful descriptions of the land and life in southern California before it was annexed to the United States. The author created a believable and endearing cast of characters and a story that was engaging and made it hard to put the book down. As the story progressed, I cared more and more about the fate of the main characters, much as the story’s protagonist, Bill Marshall, did with the Cupa Indians. The author did a great job of avoiding hackneyed or cliche dialogue, a pitfall a lesser writer would be apt to fall into in a story of this sort. In particular, when it came to the Indian characters, their voices were each unique and authentic sounding. Furthermore, the handling of dialogue in multiple languages was done seamlessly and clearly. Although I am not an historian by any stretch, I felt throughout that the details (historical, geographical, and cultural) that put the meat on the bones of the story were accurate and thoroughly, if not exhaustively, researched.
The bottom line is that I found this to be an excellent read (I would give it 4.5 stars if that was an option), thoroughly moving and full of beautiful, deftly rendered prose. For anyone with an interest in the history of California, San Diego County in particular, Mexican/American relations, the history of the cattle “industry” or who just likes a good love story – you’ll find it all here and more. If tears are a measure of emotional investment in a story, then by the end I was fully vested.