Whispers in the Canyon

Written by Gifford MacShane
Review by Brodie Curtis

The Donovan family, led by Irish immigrant father John Patrick and grandmother Katie, has settled in Arizona during the 1880s. John Patrick’s and wife Molly’s large brood of children are hard-working, each drawn with distinct physical features, abilities, and sensitivities, as they contribute to the operation of the Donovan ranch. The family’s lifestyle is more prosperous than most, but nevertheless subject to the hardships and deprivations of frontier life.

Eldest son Adam foils a bank robbery and rides to Travers Canyon to inform the bandit’s family at their decrepit ranch. The news proves the last straw for the bandit’s father, and his daughter Jesse is left with the family’s large, but untended, ranch. Adam works to gain Jesse’s trust, driven initially by Irish guilt that the Donovan’s could have done more for the Travers family before the robbery. Adam’s feelings for Jesse deepen as her brother’s treachery towards his family is slowly revealed. Adam and his family hide his mavourneen Jesse’s horrid family secret and dig deep within themselves to heal her.

The Donovan family’s Irish heritage becomes the heartbeat of the story. Lyrics, wit, mysticism, healing powers, dress, and traditions brought over from the auld country are deftly layered throughout. The intricate dynamics of the Donovan family become the centerpiece of a story of the ‘ol West that doesn’t rely on the usual action sequences such as gunfights, cattle rustling, Indian fights or buffalo hunts to shape the characters.