Inland is written very beautifully, and makes the modern books of today pale in comparison, but it also has an abundance of tangential details that sometimes makes following it confusing. It begins as the 19th century nears its end. Lawlessness reigns in the Western Territories of the United States, Indians threaten, the idea of statehood is becoming an issue, and water in its absence or abundance is an important theme. The lives of two characters, quite disparate, are covered alternately, and the reader is hard pressed to figure out how their stories will eventually merge, but merge they do. The description of their experiences and their surroundings is penned so clearly and in such detail, that the landscapes described grow alive in the mind of the reader and the characters seem very real, at times.
There are similarities that exist between both of the characters. One is the influence of water in both of their lives. Nora Lark is suffering terribly from the drought in the Territories, and is always thirsty. The absence of water in her life looms over her constantly. Lurie Mattie was in the Camel Corps, a little known experimental adjunct to the military, and camels were known, not to need water, but were able to hold and carry large amounts of it. Both Nora and Lurie speak to spirits. Nora engages in conversations with her dead daughter, Evelyn, who often advises her, and Lurie engages in conversations with his dead friend Hobbs who influences his “wants” in life. Each of them has a “confidant”, as well. Nora’s is Josie, a young psychic she has taken in to care for. They speak of connecting with the spirits of the dead. Lurie speaks to Burke, his camel, endowing the camel with human characteristics.
Lurie originally arrived in Canada, from the Eastern Mediterranean with his father. When his father grew ill and died, Lurie was sold, eventually winding up in a workhouse where he met two friends Hobbs and Donovan. Soon he was a member of their gang, and then he became a wanted man. Now he is an outlaw in the Arizona Territory, with his friend, the camel. Both he and Nora are trapped by circumstances they cannot control.
Nora’s husband, Emmett, a newspaperman, has gone on a trip and has not returned. The sheriff has not found any evidence of his whereabouts. Something odd is underfoot. Nora refuses to believe he is dead but suspicions arise. At this same time, her son Toby, 6 years old, has recently claimed to have seen a monster. Then, Nora’s other two sons go missing, either in search of their father or in search of revenge.
Secrets, mistakes, lies, choices, betrayal and deception are part of both Lurie and Nora’s life. The story is imbued with magical realism, anthropomorphism, ghosts and the natural threats and trials of life. It was hard to get drawn into the story and follow its thread and time line, at times, but the lyrical prose was its saving grace.
I won this book from librarything.com but never received it. I listened to an audiobook from the library.