Bleeding Kansas

Bleeding Kansas

3.8 34
by Sara Paretsky, Susan Ericksen

View All Available Formats & Editions

Set in the Kaw River Valley, where Paretsky grew up, Bleeding Kansas is the story of the Schapens and the Grelliers, two farm families whose histories have been entwined since the 1850s, when their ancestors settled the valley as antislavery immigrants.

Today, the Schapen family, still terrified by the lawlessness of the 1970s - when Lawrence was the most…  See more details below


Set in the Kaw River Valley, where Paretsky grew up, Bleeding Kansas is the story of the Schapens and the Grelliers, two farm families whose histories have been entwined since the 1850s, when their ancestors settled the valley as antislavery immigrants.

Today, the Schapen family, still terrified by the lawlessness of the 1970s - when Lawrence was the most violent college town in the nation - have turned to that old-time religion for security. The Schapens keep a close eye on all their neighbors, most especially the Grelliers. They keep careful track of everyone's misdeeds, and print the most egregious on their family website. When Gina Haring, a Wiccan, moves into a nearby empty farmhouse and starts practicing pagan rites, the Schapens are so outraged that they begin an active harassment campaign against the Wiccans.

The family members worry, too, about who stands better with the Lord, they or the Grelliers. When a Schapen cow gives birth to what may be a "Perfect Red Heifer" - needed if the Temple is ever rebuilt in Jerusalem - the Schapens are convinced that God is indeed smiling on them.

The pastor at their church, Salvation Bible, proclaims: "We were given a miracle, a chance to make history, in Kansas. The nation and the world laugh at us. 'What is the matter with Kansas?' liberals ask. We have a chance to say, 'Nothing's the matter with Kansas, generation of vipers. Everything's right with Kansas.' What's the matter is, you have turned your backs on the truth of the risen Lord."

Despite parental cautions, the Grelliers' teenage children are enraged by the Schapens. All their short lives, they and the young Schapens have fought, first in theircountry elementary school and now in high school. One particularly angry confrontation causes Chip Grellier to be expelled from school and consequently to join the Army. Chip's death in Iraq is the catalyzing event for momentous, even monstrous, changes in the lives of not only the Schapens and the Grelliers but all the families in the Valley. The powerful, climactic scene at Gina Haring's Samhain bonfire will forever haunt the listener.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
Set in the rural Kaw River Valley, where the author grew up, and sparked by a feud between two families that pioneered this farm region during the 1850s, the multigenerational narrative bristles with the kind of prickly social issues that give substance to Paretsky's detective stories.
—The New York Times
Jim Lehrer
There was the 1850s' Bloody Kansas of history, and now there is Sara Paretsky's Bleeding Kansas of fiction. Each is a mix of the real and the imagined, and both are unforgettable. Paretsky, one of America's bestselling crime novelists, has taken a risk with this book. She has written a serious, multi-layered saga that requires her loyal readers to move away from the familiar world of V.I. Warshawski, the Chicago private detective whom Paretsky brought to life in 12 previous novels. In its place, she has created a wild, wicked world in present-day northeastern Kansas that is as complicated as it is mean.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Paretsky takes a break from the mystery genre with this powerful, emotionally genuine tale about the ties of love, family and religious belief in a rural Kansas community. The history of the Schapens, Grelliers and Freemantles in the Kaw River Valley dates back to the mid-19th century, but time, old grudges and religious differences have eroded the bonds of friendship. When John Freemantle's niece moves back to Douglas County, her Wiccan rituals and antiwar activism cause controversy and indirectly inspire teenager Chip Grellier to enlist in the army. After Chip's death in Iraq, the Grellier family begins falling apart. Meanwhile, the fortunes of the Schapens, devout fundamentalist Christians, rise with the emergence of an apparently perfect red heifer, the sacrifice crucial to the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and the Second Coming of Jesus. This audio's power is in its richly evoked characters, and Susan Ericksen's expressive, sympathetic voice partners perfectly with Paretsky's text. She distinctively voices men, women and teenagers with careful shifts in pitch, inflection and accent. In the end, listeners will be both satisfied by the realistic, uplifting ending and bereft at having to say good-bye to Paretsky's painfully real Kansans. Simultaneous release with the Putnam hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 15). (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Paretsky, best known for her acclaimed V.I. Warshawski mystery series (Blacklist), turns to her roots in rural Kansas for this stand-alone novel of bigotry, lawlessness, and rampant biblical fundamentalism. It is the 1970s, and the Schapen and Grellier families have been farming adjacent land since the Civil War. Familiarity has bred contempt, and though both families profess Christianity, they practice it very differently, which sets them at odds. When one of the Schapens' cows gives birth to what may be a "perfect red heifer" and a local Orthodox Jewish sect shows great interest in it for potential sacrifice, a media frenzy ensues, stirring religious and monetary fervor. Then, a young Wiccan moves into a local empty farmhouse and starts conducting pagan rights, and the tiny community begins an active harassment campaign. All this is background for the star-crossed love between teenagers Lara Grellier and Robbie Schapen. Paretsky has written a powerful tale with overtones of the Wild West that illustrates the ease with which communities become zealous, ignited by fear and ignorance. Different in style from her crime fiction, this will nonetheless prove popular among her readers. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ9/1/07.]
—Susan Clifford Braun

Read More

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.70(d)

Meet the Author

Sara Paretsky is the author of sixteen books, including her renowned V. I. Warshawski novels. Her many awards include the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement from the British Crime Writers' Association. She lives in Chicago.

Brief Biography

Chicago, Illinois
Date of Birth:
June 8, 1947
Place of Birth:
Ames, Iowa
B.A., Political Science, University of Kansas; Ph.D. and M.B.A., University of Chicago

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >