Finished White Buffalo Gold by Adam G. Fleming. I received a copy of the book from the author.
Summary (from Goodreads):
“Ever since the sixth grade, Emily Zimmerman hasn’t stopped looking for traces of gold in the river that runs through her hometown, the site of a minor gold rush in the late 1800s.
Geologist Owen Thibodeaux doesn’t believe there ever was gold along Nebraska’s South Loup River, so he visits the little town of Harmony to try to find hard evidence of it. The little community has a settled spirit that soothes him, so he makes it his home.
When Emily takes a job at the local nursing home, she encounters Owen, whose rich baritone voice tells incomplete stories about a small stone from Nova Scotia and the Rock of Gibraltar. Owen’s tales stir Emily’s imagination, and she determines to help Owen, now blind, re-envision his whole story.
Includes the story lines of a gold strike mystery and a spirit buffalo.
Spanning the USA from New York to Alaska and exploring our history for 130 years, but grounded in the Heartland in the year 1992, Fleming’s most important artistic work to date pits life against death and finds hope in both. This novel is a deeply spiritual and satisfying read.
Comparable to a blend of the midwestern humor and expansive cast of small-town characters of Garrison Keillor and the darkness, poignancy, and depth of John Irving.”
I try not to use the Goodreads summary unless it’s part of a series or a mystery novel, and this is neither. But I didn’t want to spoil anything about this experience, because a big part of the joy is in seeing how everything comes together.
There are multiple narrators but the two main ones are Owen Thibodeaux and Emily Zimmerman. I liked Emily immediately, but it took me a little bit to warm up to Owen (basically that happened once their paths crossed at Emily’s job).
This is another one of those books that I wouldn’t have known about except that the author is a friend of a friend (so thank you, Lindsey, for bringing this book to my attention!) and that would’ve been very sad indeed because this novel is really good. I don’t want to get maudlin here, but this is one of those books that actually SAYS SOMETHING, you know? But it’s also an incredibly fun read. It’s rare when those two things combine.