The Bottom Line
- 'Bleeding Kansas' covers relatively unworn territory by describing life in a Kansas farm community
- The sheer number of characters makes the book confusing for the first few chapters
- The farmland near Lawrence, Kansas has a long history of neighbors relying on each other
- The Grelliers cherish their ancestors’ story, but experience tension with their current neighbors
- A miracle calf born on a nearby farm brings religious extremists to this sheltered part of Kansas
- 'Bleeding Kansas' was first published by Putnam in 2008
Guide Review - 'Bleeding Kansas' by Sara Paretsky - Book Review
Susan Grellier, a mother and farmer, is fascinated by her ancestors’, but eventually her passion for history turns into a disruptive focus on protesting the war in Iraq. Her husband, Jim, struggles to deal with their son, who resents the negative attention his mother draws to the family. Lara Grellier, the youngest child, copes with the beginning of high school and the feeling that she’s being ignored by her family.
Bleeding Kansas tries to tie itself to the rhythms of life on the farm, and the book is divided into sections according to the seasons. While growth and harvesting play their roles in the novel, the narrative spends too little time on those aspects, jumping around instead from character to character, from farmland to town, and from history to present. By the conclusion of Bleeding Kansas, Paretsky’s tale pulls the reader along swiftly, but there are too many digressions to make this a truly compelling read.