4.6 7
by Paulette Callen

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The friendship between Lena Kaiser, a sodbuster's daughter, and Gustie Roemer, an educated Easterner, is unlikely in any other circumstance but post-frontier Charity, South Dakota. Gustie is considered an outsider, and Lena is too proud to share her problems (which include a hard-drinking husband) with anyone else.

On the nearby Sioux reservation, Gustie also

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The friendship between Lena Kaiser, a sodbuster's daughter, and Gustie Roemer, an educated Easterner, is unlikely in any other circumstance but post-frontier Charity, South Dakota. Gustie is considered an outsider, and Lena is too proud to share her problems (which include a hard-drinking husband) with anyone else.

On the nearby Sioux reservation, Gustie also finds love and family with two Dakotah women: Dorcas Many Roads, an old medicine woman, and her adopted granddaughter, Jordis, who bears the scars of the white man's education.

When Lena's husband is arrested for murdering his father and the secrets of Gustie's past follow her to Charity, Lena, Gustie, and Jordis stand together. As buried horrors are unearthed and present tragedies unfold, they discover the strength and beauty of love and friendship that blossom like wild flowers in the tough prairie soil.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1899, Charity, S.D., is surely misnamed. The tight-knit farming community that serves as setting for Callen's first novel is really a hive of gossip, rumor and spite. Augusta "Gustie" Roemer, the town's unmarried schoolteacher, has a secret life that people sense without having concrete proof. Gustie's love for Jordis, a beautiful Sioux woman, complicates both their lives as they struggle to find a place for their relationship in their respective worlds. Meanwhile, Gustie's one staunch friend in town, Lena, endures the humiliation of her alcoholic husband's decline and ultimately his arrest for the unlikely murder of his own father. When an angry man comes looking for Gustie, demanding a legacy he claimed his deceased sister, once Gustie's lover, stole from him, Gustie stands her ground and discovers that her real defenders are Jordis's people, not the clucking white townspeople. A second murder occurs, and the three women join together to maintain their dignity and solve the crimes. With the exception of the Sioux chief, Little Bull, Callen's menfolk come across as clueless and abusive, in contrast to her well-drawn, strong and independent women. Rich with Sioux lore, Callen's debut is a refreshingly nontraditional western romance that puts a new spin on the old subject of a small-minded, turn-of-the-century prairie town. (May)
Library Journal
Late 19th-century Charity, South Dakota, says first-time novelist Callen, "was a stagnant pond. Gossip grew like scum on a slough." At the same time, "Live and Let Live" was the local motto. Clearly, the rural village depicted here is no Little House on the Prairie. Callen's re-creation highlights white prejudice against Native Americans as well as pervasive sexism and family violence. Woven in is a lesbian love story (between Easterner "Gustie Roemer," who is finally gaining acceptance, and the Native American Jordis), a series of grisly murders, and a lesson or two about the spirituality of indigenous people. Callen's progressive political agenda is matter-of-factly presented; nonetheless, her lyrical prose never sacrifices craft to ideology. Instead, Charity is a mystery so delicate it feels like a poem, so piercing in its depiction of small-town life that it leaves the reader startled by its straightforward insights. One closes the book renewed. A debut to be heralded, this is highly recommended.Eleanor J. Bader, New Sch. for Social Research, New York
Kirkus Reviews
Poet Callen's first novel, set at the turn of the century, tells of the love and friendship between two women—a story that, for all its up-to-date politics, is really an old-fashioned celebration of its title virtue.

Lena and Will Kaiser, longtime residents of Charity, South Dakota, have always stuck by each other, despite their childless marriage, Will's drinking problems, and his loutish, quarrelsome family. When a drunken Will is arrested after he is observed leaving the scene of his father's murder, no one believes that this peaceable man is actually the killer, but Lena lacks the money to hire a lawyer or post bail. Enter Gustie Roemer, a schoolteacher recently arrived from back east. Unbeknownst to the community, Gustie traveled to South Dakota with her ailing lover, Clare, who died shortly after arriving. Still mourning Clare, Gustie is tormented by nightmares that are dispelled only by hanging the dead woman's nightgown near her bed. Though preoccupied with her own sorrow, Gustie is moved to become the Kaisers' secret benefactor, using Clare's inheritance to buy Lena groceries and to get Will out of jail. Meanwhile, Gustie has become acquainted with Dorcas, an elderly Sioux woman, and her beautiful, troubled granddaughter Jordis, who still bears scars from the beatings white teachers gave her for youthful rebelliousness. Gustie's loyalties are torn as she and Jordis fall in love, despite Gustie's deepening friendship with Lena, who can't understand Gustie's closeness to Jordis and the Indian community. But as Kaiser family tensions unfold, Lena learns the virtues of tolerance and kindness, while Gustie finds the strength to confront her own past.

Despite a few excessively lyrical flourishes, an unusually satisfying tale, combining an engrossing mystery, a lovingly etched portrait of a community, and an appreciation for the moral resilience of strong women.

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Product Details

Ylva Publishing
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Meet the Author

Paulette Callen’s first novel 'Charity' was published by Simon and Schuster in 1997. Since then, she has written three other novels: 'Command of Silence', 'Death Can Be Murder', and 'Fervent Charity' (the sequel to 'Charity', to be published in fall 2013, by Ylva Publishing).

Her poems, articles, and short stories have appeared in small journals, magazines, and anthologies. The poem “See, Nadia!” was included in 'Beyond Lament, Poets of the World Bearing Witness to the Holocaust' (Northwestern University Press) and was subsequently selected by artist Carol Rosen for inclusion in her Holocaust Series, an eight-book collection of photo/text collages housed in the Whitney Museum, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the University of Tel Aviv.

Paulette’s employment history includes the Communications Department of a large corporation, a movie theatre, a bank, the gift industry, the ASPCA, the insurance sector, as well as summer stock theatres and a year-long stint with a comedy improvisation company. For nearly four years, she served as a volunteer staff member for POWARS (Pet Owners with Aids Resource Services) in New York City.

After many years as a resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, she has returned, with her rescued blind Shih Tzu Lily, to her hometown in South Dakota.

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Charity 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*kisses her*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A golden retriever puppy)) She looks around quietly as she follows Maria in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anyone here
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Hey," Argo told Elsa. "Nothing, really. I'm bored."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sat down, wondering how to control her powers
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She blinks at him. Ok. She slowly removes her mask. There is a large wolf scratch going from her hairline over her eye and to her chin. There are burn marks all around it. Blood stains her injured side of her face. She looks at him. Now you.