Ever Faithful: A Vintage National Parks Novel

Written by Karen Barnett
Review by Katie Stine

It’s 1933 in Yellowstone National Park, and we follow Elsie Brookes, who is saving up for college to become a teacher, and Nate Webber, a Civilian Conservation Corps foreman from Brooklyn. Nate is the kind of guy who steps in to volunteer to take care of everything from wildfires to baby raccoons. His “shameful secret” is dyslexia, which Elsie helps him with. Nate is supportive of Elsie’s dreams of college, and romance blooms. The main character, however, is definitely Yellowstone National Park. Any hiker or nature-lover will immediately recognize the author as one of their own, as she was a park ranger.

There is a lot going for this novel: the sweet romance of the central couple feels honest, the characters are well drawn, the wildfire descriptions are well-researched; even the crazy Yellowstone slang works well. Yet, the Christian element often feels misplaced. In this novel, everyone agrees with “God’s plan,” even when parachuting the idea in at two-thirds of the way through the book. The spirituality seems Protestant, despite the presence of traditionally Catholic ethnic groups.

Which leads to the other hollow note: the ethnic harmony felt at the end amongst the men of the CCC. Hard work and close quarters absolutely make bonds form; however, the only ethnicities present are Polish, Irish, and Italian. There is one Jewish boy, who is threatened, but that moment evaporates when Nate defends him. Not noted, but true, the CCC was segregated, so there would not have been a darker skinned corpsman. But as these boys were from New York City, there might have been questions about where the African-Americans and Latinx happened to be. Instead these populations are out-of-sight, out-of-mind, which made the white-skinned comradery cringe-worthy.

If the reader can ignore the oversights of race and religion, it’s a good read.