Monday, August 15, 2016

On Second Thought - - Reason to Believe

Reason to Believe
By Kathleen Eagle
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Release Date: July 16, 2013
(originally published by Avon in 1995)

Clara Whiting and Ben Pipestone meet when she comes to the reservation to interview his father, Dewey Pipestone, a holy man of the Lakota Sioux. Despite the vast differences between them—cultural, experiential, and temperamental—the two fall in love and are married. Their marriage endures for twelve years through the worst of Ben’s alcoholism. Ironically, it is when Ben is in a treatment program which encourages his honesty that he reveals the truth about a brief, drunken affair that the marriage receives a destructive blow. The couple separates when their only child, a daughter (Anna) is eleven. Two years later, Anna is in trouble, mouthing off at school, shoplifting, and drinking. Clara and Ben recognize that they must work together to help their daughter. With this common goal, they agree to Anna’s plea that the three of them join Ben’s family in the Big Foot Memorial Ride, a grueling two-week journey on horseback that traces the path taken by their ancestors, ending at the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre.

The demanding ride through the Dakotas in December challenges the bodies, minds, and spirits of those who participate. Clara and Ben are forced to examine themselves in ways that would have been unlikely in ordinary circumstances. Clara, who defied her family to marry Ben, must come to terms with her inability to fix everything and her determination to keep the imperfections from showing. She could not prevent Ben’s alcoholic binges, and she cannot protect Anna from Anna’s own bad choices or from the bigotry of racists. She knows that she still loves Ben, but can she rebuild the trust that his infidelity shattered? Ben is plagued by the conviction that he is unworthy of his father’s belief in him and of his wife and daughter’s love for him. He has fought for his sobriety tenaciously, but his spiritual struggles are ongoing. And his self-recrimination over his failures as a son, a husband, and a father haunt him. Can he reclaim what he has lost? Will Anna’s love for her parents and her dream of a reunited family and Dewey’s wisdom and hopes for a successor to continue the beliefs of his people help Clara and Ben to find their way back? The reader is pulled into this story that has dimensional reality and substance.

This novel is my favorite of Kathleen Eagle’s books. I reread it every couple of years, and I rejoiced when Bell Bridge Books made it available in digital format. It is both a deeply emotional reunion story and a powerful, detailed account of an actual event. Eagle never shies from tackling the tough stuff, and in this novel she uses alcoholism, adultery, teen rebellion, and spiritual struggles to create a world where flawed characters fight to find healing, hope, and love despite their failures. Her own experience as a former teacher in a reservation school and as a white woman married to a Lakota saturate the story with authenticity. This book is one of those romance novels that surpasses any limitations of genre fiction. It touches the reader’s heart and challenges the reader to ponder important questions. Kathleen Eagle has given us many gems. I think this one is her best. I highly recommend it.



  1. Janga, thanks for the great review.

    I enjoyed one of Eagle's books a few years ago, 'The Last Good Man', recommended by you at 'justjanga'(of course!). At the time you also recommended 'You Never Can Tell' which is now available in my preferred audio format. I think I will try that next but you have sold me on 'Reason to Believe' ... I love stories involving the Native American Indians ... so will keep an eye out for that one on the audible lists.

    Thanks again for all of the wonderful recommendations .... you are a star! :)

    1. Your comments always make me glad I write reviews, dear Q. I'm happy that I introduced you to Kathleen Eagle. The Last Good Man and You Never Can Tell are also favorites. I hope you enjoy Reason to Believe.

  2. Great review! I was spoiled by the public library I belonged to before moving. This one carries so much less than what I was used to. I did a quick scan for Kathleen Eagle and they only have 5 books. Reason to Believe is not one of them. I am sure I've read it before. Good books are always worth a re-read.

  3. I like Kathleen's strong, well defined characters. I have read several of her books, but have not read this one. I will have to look for it.