©2016 WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs
“A Novel.” That is the descriptor listed beneath the title on the cover of this fascinating book. I have been reading selected Sigmund Brouwer books for a couple of decades now. Most of them fall into the category of “novel” which indicates that they are fictional stories, and that the main thrust of the story is to, well, tell a good story. I think that’s why I enjoy reading Brouwer’s fiction. He writes for audiences at a variety of stages in their reading, and goes out of his way to inspire young people to both read and write, often focusing his seminars on school-aged boys who find it difficult to “get into reading.” May his tribe increase.
Yes, Saffire is a work of fiction. Yes, it is a good story, well-told. But it is so much more than a good story. Like all good historical fiction, this book becomes a time portal through which the reader can be transported to anywhere in history and become a part of the events described.
Saffire actually defies genre-fication—it is hard-pressed to be squeezed into a mold created by the publishing companies for marketing purposes. A surface glance at this novel could very easily place it in the category of romance because of the attraction-tension that runs throughout the story. The back-story of lost love for the hero that finds its replacement in the beauty and fire of one of the developing characters (Rachel Sandoval). There is a tip of the hat to the western story moseying through the pages as Jim Holt constantly remembers his days with the Buffalo Bill Wild West show, and concerns himself greatly with the location and condition of his cowboy hat. Mystery and intrigue lace the pages as Holt constantly asks questions on behalf of the orphaned child for whom the book is named.
Ultimately, though, Saffire finds a comfortable resting place in the seat occupied by historical fiction. The narrative intertwined with the historical setting and events that are the construction of the Panama Canal will hold the reader’s attention. Brouwer, as is his custom, is able to take a moment in history that is simply a mundane paragraph to most, and turn it into the exotic, exquisite exploration that fascinated those who lived there or watched from the window of newspapers around the world when it was happening.
This is a most enjoyable read which draws a portrait of the politics, mechanics, and theatrics of the Panama Canal Zone as a perfect setting for the story. I highly recommend this book to people interested in the building of the Canal, in the art of intrigue, in the history of the Canal Zone and the country of Panama, or even in the orchestration of bull fighting. I give Christy-winning author Brouwer five reading glasses for this latest novel.
—Benjamin Potter, September 13, 2016
[Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.]