Charity - Paulette Callen One of the rarest things in lesfic is beautiful prose--the kind that has a poetic and lyrical quality to it and its reading alone gives you much pleasure. Add to that the amazing imagery the descriptions evoke, and you get a book that magically transports you to another world and another time and lose yourself entirely in that world--a small town called Charity in turn of the century America. There we meet three amazing women--the diminutive but feisty Lena, town eccentric Gustie and the mysterious and slightly scary Jordis. These ladies are far from perfect, (its a joy to get into Lena's mind as she has a rather wry opinion on everyone and everything) but they do their best to get by in a male dominated world and amidst a small town mindset. There is an intriguing murder mystery and a romance to spice things up. My only complaint observation is that the romance isn't that well-developed, at least, not in the standard we are used to in lesfic. Which is probably the author's intent, as this book is more a character study of women (and a small town) that just happened to have a couple of women who love one another. I would also like to think, realistically, what choice did these two women have? It wasn't like there were any other lesbians within a few hundred miles of Charity. I'm sure like me, other lesfic readers kept hoping for the other women to discover alternatives..but alas, no matter how worthless/horrible some of the men were, it didn't happen. :) So if you're looking for a standard lesfic romance, look elsewhere. This is a historical fiction first and foremost.

One other thing I found really satisfying is the balance the author strikes in everything--from the characterizations to the plot and everything in between. No one is perfectly good or evil. I love all-around do-gooder Lena's 'evil' thoughts, Gustie's willingness to lie and even Jordis' readiness to kill. The Indians are portrayed realistically, as ordinary folks and occasionally victims of white vices/abuses but who also seemed resigned to the inevitability of their marginalization and are just trying to get by with as much of their dignity intact as possible. There is always some thread of religious spiritualism (be it Amer. Indian or Christian) running through the book as beliefs are such a major part of people's lives then. Yet the ending (Gustie's 'vision') is also perfectly apt. The review would be incomplete without a mention of the town itself Charity. It's like a character in the book--collectively small-minded, opinionated, judgmental of anyone who doesn't conform to its strict definition of 'normal' yet strangely protective and supportive when faced with outside threats.