Putnam, Jan 2008, $25.95, 448 pp.
Nears the town of Lawrence in the Kaw River Valley in Kansas, two families the Grelliers and the Schapens have farmed the land for over one hundred and fifty years. Both families barely tolerate each other because the Schapens who belong to a fundamentalist church believes the Grelliers are godless heathens. Into this atmosphere comes Gina Haring, a Wiccan and a lesbian, who is the catalyst for a series of events that ends in tragedy and death.
Susan Grellier is attracted to the Wiccan holidays and attends the bonfire which gets the Schapens up in arms. Junior Schapen makes life miserable for Chip Grellier. Life gets worse for Chip when his mother becomes an anti-war activist and the town looks upon her as a hippie. Tired of the constant fighting, Chip enlists in the army and sent to Iraq where he dies less than a month after he arrives. Susan has a breakdown and doesn’t relate to anyone causing the family to fall apart. The Schapens have a baby red heifer that the ultra conservative Jews want to buy in three years if she is perfect as both Jews and Christians believe such an animal is needed for the temple to be built and for Christ to come again. Tired of the loathing the Schapens stir up, some people set in motion a deadly series of events that culminates on Halloween.
BLEEDING KANSAS is nothing like the author’s V.I. Warshawski crime capers. This is more like a novel written by Barbara Delinsky about families and the internal and external strife each individual deals with. There is a lot of depth to this novel and though it can be read for entertainment, it deals with lots of social issues such as religious intolerance, same sex relationships and people who don’t conform to mainstream thinking. The heartland of America is shown as a microcosm of society in general and deals with timely issues that divide us.