ARBOREATUM by Evans Light is a novella length story about two settler families who have branched off from their main wagon train because of the religious rantings of their self-appointed leader, Lemuel. He claims to have had a revelation about finding the Garden of Eden in the middle of the prairie that they are attempting to cross.
After the two families get lost and are starving, they find a valley that looks like Lemuel might just have been right. Unfortunately their way is blocked by a non-welcoming party of four indians. This doesn’t stop Lemuel though, he immediately blows one of the “warriors” head off and his friend and follower Sam Jenkins follows suit.
After all four of the indians have been murdered, the families take possession of this apparent paradise, things go wrong very quickly and it looks like they’d have been better off listening to the “locals.”
At 75 pages this just taps into “novella” territory, but the story moves at a good pace and I do have to say that I was impressed by the storyline and the twist. I certainly did not see that coming. So in terms of plot and plot devices, I was very pleased surprised. Something that does not happen too often these days.
My only complaint was the dialogue and some of the sentence phrasing. It had too much of a twentieth century feel to it.
At the beginning of the story, young Micah Jenkins (son of Sam, and yes I only just caught that) is thinking about how the two families got stranded in the middle of the prairie. When he reveals that the reason they became separated from the main group is because of Lemuel “going all messianic;” the phrase is way too “modern.” The time period when the story is set would not have featured such a turn of phrase.
Another part of the story has Micah recalling how he caught Lemuel’s oldest daughter Anna in the act of “fondling” her private parts; but, Micah uses a very modern term to describe the part of her nether region that she was touching. Both of these sentences had the effect of taking me out of the story. I am reasonably sure that the slang term Micah uses in the story was not in vogue just yet. So like the previous phrase, both of these instances (these were the most obvious) took away from Evans’ tale.
But, the overall story and the action almost made up for it. As I said it was a brilliant idea and one that certainly impressed me. Just for the plot alone, I’ve given the book a 3 out of 5 stars. In terms of originality, I personally think it rates much higher, but, again the dialogue did not ring true for me. So the modern phrasing of the characters knocked the final rating down.
I’ll definitely be reading some more from Mr Light. If the rest of his works are as original, I don’t think I’ll be too disappointed.