Time and Again

Written by Sheldon Russell
Review by K. M. Sandrick

In the time before records were kept, a man and a buffalo, locked in combat, fall to their deaths in the canyon on the Cherokee Outlet. Millennia later Nod Blessing, carrying saddlebags filled with the money paid for the sale of the Blessing Cattle Company’s herd, and his camp cook J.B., die in a canyon sinkhole. Five women, including Ruth Cawley and Lou Benson, attempt to build a town for women only near the canyon spring. Surveyor Marco Bradstone finds love and deceit as he raises cattle and works canyon land.

Time and Again is the latest historical Western novel by Russell. Previous works have won the Spur Award for Best Western Historical Novel, the Oklahoma Book Award, and the Langum Prize for Historical Fiction.

The novel is unforgiving in its descriptions of hardscrabble ranching life during the times of the Great Depression, Dust Bowl, and two world wars. Its characters are indelible, with odd quirks, mannerisms, and speaking patterns making them immediately recognizable. Descriptions are lyrical yet realistic. Readers wince when Marco is pinned against the boards of the cattle pen by his bull, Gimp. They cough along with Ruth from the dust particles causing her pneumonia. They shudder in the throes of a powerful tornado.

Time and Again is called by the publisher a metaphysical Western “revealing historical answers hidden in plain sight.” Indeed, its story arc and message affirm that while individual lives end, evidence of their time on earth remains.