The Pain and the Sorrow

Written by Loretta Miles Tollefson
Review by Juliet Waldron

Set in the 1860s in the New Mexico Territory, this is a fiction built upon an actual event. Gregoria is a brutalized Mexican girl who, at 14, is married off by her mentally ill father to an American thug, Charles Kennedy. As Gregoria is used to nothing but neglect and abuse, Charles is nothing new or unexpected. New Mexico has already been colonized by the Spanish, but now American ex-soldiers, misfits, opportunists, and farmers are beginning to move west, too. It is here amid social upheaval, with rushes for gold and for land in progress, that the story takes place.

Gregoria’s husband is violent and paranoid, a serial killer who builds a cabin in a lonely mountain pass beside a trail much used by immigrants. Here, he robs and murders weary travelers and then disposes of their bodies and personal possessions at his leisure. That Gregoria finally discovers enough sense of identity to finally give evidence against the brutal psychopath to whom she is yoked is something of a miracle, but in the end, she isn’t the main focus. That, I think, is the Moreno Valley itself, the land, the people, and the historically accurate retelling of a gruesome “true crime” tale from New Mexico’s past. Not always easy reading because of the content, but a vivid, pull-no-punches trip to the 1860s “Wild West.”