Millie and Bump set off for Colorado and a new life together. Leaving Mississippi is all Millie ever wanted, but it seems the dark memories she thought to escape have followed her. With the memory of what Bill Miller did still hanging over her, Millie isn’t sure she can ever accept her husband’s love, and she’s not sure the past will stay buried long enough for her to try.
As Millie’s new life begins to unravel, her Choctaw grandmother arrives. She anchors Millie with the roots of family and tradition and teaches her the healing power of forgiveness.
Just like Cantrell’s debut, Into the Free, this novel bursts with beautiful narrative. Millie’s experiences are achingly real and deeply moving. Her grandmother, Oka, stands as my favorite character. As I’d hoped after reading Into the Free, the story revisits a part of the earlier tale that happened too fast to be satisfying to me. Millie’s able to get some closure and to explain more of what was in her head in those tumultuous moments.
Additionally, though, there’s a plot element that unfolds that didn’t feel so well resolved. I don’t want to spoil the story, but it felt like one of those “just trust me” sorts of resolutions, and I think I expected more from the story which had so many other intricate conflicts. I did enjoy the ending and I’m glad I read more of Millie’s tale. The Colorado setting felt incredible realistic in all its rugged, frontier power. I loved Cantrell’s descriptions of Millie’s relationship with her horse, too.
See below for the content breakdown. This is a new adult story, exploring the first few years of a troubled marriage and Millie’s healing after a sexual assault.
Romance/Sexual Content – and Trigger Warnings
Millie has flashbacks to the afternoon she was raped. There are snippets of sharp detail, things like her remembering the way her dress tore, or him tearing into her. Millie experiences triggers in her relationship with Bump and has to navigate those moments. We know after they are married that they are intimate. The descriptions are vague, usually hinting at coming intimacy with things like him unbuttoning her nightgown and then leaving off to begin a new scene. Millie’s struggle to connect with her husband is a significant part of the story, though. While graphic sex isn’t described, her relationship to this part of her life is one of the biggest conflicts in the story.
Millie and Bump share their faith about God being able to move mountains. Millie remembers scriptures shared with her by her mother. She prays often, especially in times of peril and need.
Oka, Millie’s Choctaw grandmother visits her and shares some traditions with Millie. She cleanses the house, for example. Millie respects the significance of this ritual.
There’s a brief mention of Millie’s conversation with Babushka, an elderly palm reader she knew in Mississippi. Millie never had her palm read, but the woman seemed to see into her soul and tell Millie things she needed to hear.
Rumors spread about a traveling man and his connection to two murders. When the man begins working for Bump, Millie fears for their safety. Millie learns about the night her grandmother was violently attacked and her grandfather killed. Two men get into a fist fight. A man is killed by a mountain lion. Millie witnesses the attack and others come with her to recover the man’s remains.
Millie remembers how damaging morphine use was to her mother.