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The Buffalo Soldier Hardcover – 4 Jul 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 414 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Publications (4 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609608339
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609608333
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 17.3 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,681,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By H Pedder VINE VOICE on 25 Aug. 2004
Format: Hardcover
I fancied myself taking on a 'literary' book - you know, the type that wins awards etc. This seemed like a good start. It was, to be honest, just what i expected. The prose was pleasantly written, smoothly rolling page after page, and I found myself falling into the character's minds. However, if it's an action packed, twist-and-turn plot you're after then look elsewhere. The book's official synopsis, actually, is what you get. A pleasant book to read but not one which I shall file away in my 'to-read-again' pile. Just nice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lincs Reader TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 31 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback
This is the second of Chris Bohjalian's books that I have read (the first being Midwives), and he is fast becoming one of my all-time favourite authors.

When Laura and Terry Sheldon foster Alfred, the whole of the small Vermont town in which they live seens to be disrupted. Two years ago the Sheldon's twin daughters were drowned in a tragic accident - this incident had already shocked the townspeople - so the introduction of a 10 year old black boy into the family will either bring them together or push them so far apart.

The story is told in many voices, each chapter is narrated by; Laura (foster mum), Terry (foster dad), Alfed (foster child), The Herberts (the old couple over the road who really take to Alfred) or Phoebe (Terry's lover).

This is a story of ordinary people that are easily related to - their stories gently unfold - this is certainly not a fast, action packed story. Each character is given an equal voice and each character adds more and more to the story. The story is about family life and how ordinary people deal with pain and heartache - love and relationships and their hopes for the future.

A really enjoyable read - I'm looking forward to reading much more by this author.
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Format: Paperback
Terry and Laura lose twin daughters in a flash flood. Their marriage is in limbo when they foster a black child, Alfred. Initially Laura warms more to Alfred and Terry, frozen out, has an affair. Alfred goes on to form a close relationship with an elderly couple who have a horse, which the boy looks after and learns to ride. The boy learns about buffalo soldiers and so sees himself as following in their footsteps. Chapters are passed from one character to another. Each is prefaced by quotations from the story of the original buffalo soldiers - black men who served in the US army in the Indian wars. I knew nothing of the original buffalo soldiers, so that was a plus for me. However, the novel has all the drama of a made for TV afternoon movie. It just does not sparkle. The end is signed from a long way off - rarely has a finale been so predictable. I have the feeling that the author, the very successful author, produced this one to order.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
Occasionally a novel really grabs your senses and your heart, both, and moves you deeply into its events, and this is one of those books. Alfred is ten, parentless, many times fostered, and he's black. There is something strong and moral about him, though in the past he has been described as `troubled' - that euphemism for past misbehaviour that indicates a present tense as well.

Laura and Terry had two beautiful daughters, younger than Alfred, until they were drowned two years ago in one of the flash-floods that afflict this part of leafy, but mountainous, Vermont in the winter storms. Fostered with Laura and Terry, Alfred is careful, silent, fearful. He recognises early that it is Laura who wants and needs him, and that Terry, a State Trooper, is merely acquiescent. He is drawn to their neighbours, an older couple, Paul and Emily, especially when Paul tells him about the Buffalo Soldiers and later acquires a horse which he shares the care and pleasure of with Alfred. Alfred finds it difficult to make friends at school; all the other boys have known each other all their lives and some of their parents are wary of what they see as a double outsider coming into their houses, not only a foster-kid, but a black one. Alienated and afraid, Alfred does what he always does in this situation: waits to see how long it will be before he is moved on again. The worst seems bound to happen, especially when Terry becomes involved with another woman.

This is a wrenching, even heart-breaking story, told in measured prose that is full of insight and empathy for each of the protagonists. Alfred's relationship with Laura, Terry, Paul and the horse, Mesa, are each of them precisely and intelligently unfolded. This wonderfully engaging and beautifully worked novel is full of emotional tension and incident-laden suspense running high, all the way to its very gratifying conclusion.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 74 reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Depends On What You Like 6 Jun. 2002
By taking a rest - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Chris Bohjalian's, "The Buffalo Soldier", is a well-crafted and at times beautifully written novel. Simplified, the book is about human nature when placed under extreme duress due to tragedy. No parent should ever have to bury one child much less face the horror of two young deaths, and any attempt at recovery is by definition going to be traumatic at best. The author creates a couple that tries to travel back to some form of life that is tolerable if not one that will ever be purely happy again. The way they proceed is extreme in the unusual choices they make, and the ingrained difficulties their choice is burdened with.
The setting is Vermont, a very rural Vermont of dirt roads and mountain streams that can still tear apart lives. This is not Burlington by the lake, a city an hours drive from cosmopolitan Montreal. The decision to take a Foster Child in to their home is hardly an easy choice. Many children from these programs have lead itinerant lives at best, and have experienced views of human behavior that no person should see. So when a grieving couple opens their home to a young African American boy who has been bounced about by the system from his original home in Philadelphia, only to be placed in a very rural and very white environment, there are issues for everyone.
The author deals with so many issues that it is not possible to comment on them all, so I choose one that I enjoyed the most. This young boy has the good fortune to have an elderly couple that helps him to learn about his history and define himself, who offer some stability while his foster parents deal with their own demons that are far from confronted much less solved.
This couple has traveled the nation and has brought home every knick-knack they have seen. These are the people that the makers of cheesy souvenirs live for. But more importantly they know this country's history and with a book and a cap with a buffalo on it they change this young man's life. Buffalo soldier was the name given to African American soldiers by Native Americans. It is a name that was given out of respect for these men, men that history too often slights.
The young man learns of the history that caused these men to be honored, and they become for him the role models that he will emulate. This part of the novel was my favorite element; there were many others but none that struck with such power and grace. And that is why my comments for the title of this review are a bit ambivalent. There was much about the book I found to be slow, and some was a bit cliché. However this relationship made the entire book a worthwhile read.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A Dififcult Book to Review 11 Jun. 2003
By M. Herzik - Published on
Format: Paperback
On many levels I enjoyed Bohjalian's The Buffalo Soldier so, why only the 3 stars? I'll begin with what I liked. The historic introduction at the beginning of each chapter. Although, I have a cursory knowledge of Buffalo Soldiers it has made me want to learn more. The development and insight into Alfred's character. Using Alfred as a catalyst to bring about changes in Laura's character, opening her up as it were, was poignant. The secondary characters of the Heberts brought some lightness into a rather dark novel.
But, and now here it comes,I find it difficult to believe that every child in the town would be so callously prejudice. Especially when Alfred is described as handsome, intelligent and athletic. Or that the class teacher is so indifferent to the "new" kid, rather a brutal commentary on the education system in Vermont.
My biggest problems however, were the relationship between Terry and Phoebe,his character, and the ending of the book. First the relationship,this struck me as an everyman's fantasy. A girlfriend/lover that wants nothing from the relationship. Phoebe was just too good to be true, no demands, no expectations and no recriminations. I suppose I am to feel sympathy for Terry because of the death of his daughters. Does this also mean I am to condone infidelity to his wife and indifference to a foster child? If Alfred hadn't saved his life would the distrust/indifference have remained? A rather stringent lesson to prove one's self worth. I found Terry weak, self centered, manipulative and a hypocrite. Never once did Terry or Phoebe consider that eventually the unborn child might want to locate his father and what results that might have on Laura's and Terry's relationship. Infact, the ending was just too pat. Phoebe quietly leaves with no ill will towards Terry, Laura forgives Terry....but wait how can that be as she has no knowledge of the unborn child? Does this suggest a sequel where she will be just as understanding when the "child" comes a knocking on her door 20 years later? How can a relationship exist between Laura and Terry with this rather onimous cloud hanging on the horizon. No, there are too many problems with Terry's character and the author's lack of accountability with it for this to be a satisfying book.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Touching novel about grief, betrayal and redemption. 24 Mar. 2002
By E. Bukowsky - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Chris Bohjalian proved in his wonderful novel, "Midwives," that he has a deep understanding of the courage that ordinary people need to survive in a complex and often tragic world. He also showed an uncanny ability to write from both a male and a female perspective. In his latest novel, "The Buffalo Soldier," Bohjalian once again beautifully explores how human relationships are tested by the pressures of life.
The setting is rural Vermont. Bohjalian focuses on a troubled couple, Laura and Terry Sheldon, whose nine-year-old twin daughters die tragically in a flash flood. The Sheldons are grief-stricken and their sorrow spills over into their marriage, threatening to tear it apart. Laura and Terry decide to take in a ten-year-old foster child named Alfred, who is African-American. Alfred is a gentle boy, but he is hesitant to bond with anyone, since he has been moved around regularly from one home to another over the years.
Bohjalian brilliantly describes the ever-changing dynamics in Laura's and Terry's relationship. The introduction of a child into their empty household may be an opportunity for the couple to heal, but Laura seems to relate to the boy while Terry holds back. Fortunately, Alfred is befriended by a wonderful and warm neighbor, Paul Hebert. Paul introduces Alfred to the history of the famed Buffalo soldiers, an African-American regiment that fought in the late 1800's. He also teaches Alfred how to care for and ride a horse. It is heart-warming to watch this reserved child blossom as he begins to form new friendships and as he learns more about himself and his heritage.
Bohjalian switches perspective from one chapter to the next, and he allows us to attain an intimate knowledge of what each character thinks and feels. By the end of the novel, I was deeply invested in the outcome. Occasionally, the dialogue is a bit stilted and there are a few scenes that border on the melodramatic. Overall, however, "The Buffalo Soldier" is a touching reminder that although human beings are fragile, they are also resilient. Loving someone deeply makes us vulnerable to loss, but if we are to achieve a meaningful life, it is a risk worth taking.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Another Homerun for Chris Bohjalian 5 May 2002
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"The Buffalo Soldier" proved to me that Chris Bohjalian is a wonderful, timeless storyteller. In this book, the author takes what could be harsh storylines of a loss of one's children, marital infidelity, and interracial adoptions and weaves a story that is a delight to read, with only subtle hints of these harsh issues--they become secondary to the real story of people's lives. He has a wonderful sense of the people in his home state of Vermont, and develops their characters so that you feel like you've known them all of your life. This was a wonderful read! I thorougly enjoyed one of his other books, "Midwives," and now can't wait to read his other works!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Bohjalian Won't Disappoint You 9 Jun. 2002
By Haley Burke - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Chris Bohjalian has captured the essence of his characters, once again. In THE BUFFALO SOLDIER, a story about grief, marital strife, friendship and neighbors, and the sad past of a little boy trying to survive in the foster care system, Bohjalian manages to pull the reader into the stream of the story easily.
The death of their twin girls has naturally changed Laura and Terry and even two years later we watch as they both continue to deal with their grief, albeit in very different ways. Terry, the cop, and Laura, the animal shelter supervisor, are going to react differently to this tragedy and it's interesting how their job choices reflect their reactions. Bohjalian does this in a very realistic way. Terry wants to be able to control his life, take charge, make things right. This is a very accurate portrayal for a dedicated law enforcement officer. Laura brings another child in their life, Alfred, an African American boy. Not only is this a challenge because his years in foster care have left him distrustful of most everyone, but they are living in Vermont where there are very few other African Americans.
Just as it is Laura's nature to want to help others, protect and love those who don't have someone to care for them, it is Terry's nature to want life to feel more normal, even though he knows it never can.
I was a little disturbed with the ending. It ends well but there were a few questions left unanswered for me. Perhaps Bohjalian is thinking of a sequel in the years to come. Or maybe we can fill in the blanks ourselves.
At any rate, this is another good story by Chris Bohjalian as he continues to make interesting stories from unusual circumstances come alive.
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