Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Sweetwater Burning"

Heather Sharfeddin grew up in Idaho and Montana, the daughter of a forester-turned-cattle rancher. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and son. Her books include Blackbelly and Mineral Spirits.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Sweetwater Burning, and reported the following:
Sweetwater Burning is a book about perceptions, but also about standing up for ones principles. Chas McPherson is a misunderstood loner who finds himself accused of arson after someone commits a hate crime in his small town. There are many reasons the town is quick to judge, going back to his preacher-father's influence on the community to Chas's recent refusal to sign a petition that would change the school Christmas celebration to something less religious.

Page 69 epitomizes Chas's approach to his circumstances as illustrated in the following passage:
He hadn't given much forethought to the visit, but had been seized with a sudden urge to show the sheriff his congenial side after realizing he might've made a bad impression the previous day, dripping with blood and all. He pressed the silver bell on the counter. A pleasant "ding" resonated through the high-ceilinged room. Moments later a vaguely familiar woman in her mid-fifties stepped out from the back and assessed Chas harshly with her eyes. He assessed her back; she looked like she'd moussed her hair with pine pitch.

"Yes, can I help you?"

"Chas McPherson. Number one arson suspect. Here to speak to the sheriff."

"Is the Sheriff expecting you?"
Of course Sheriff Edelson is not expecting Chas, and Chas's "take the bull by the horns" approach to his circumstances causes the sheriff to think about Chas differently. Edelson isn't sure if Chas is truly innocent or just very clever, and it is the sheriff's journey to understanding the man that ultimately tells the story--motives cannot be assumed, a father and a son are not the same, and some people prefer to keep their good deeds to themselves no matter the consequence.
Learn more about the book and author at Heather Sharfeddin's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue