Heart’s Blood: A Novel
by Elizabeth Zinn
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

"Ty understood that he had returned during a time of instability and the old delicate balance between illegal crossers and the ranchers had been profoundly upset."

When Ty McNeil is four he watches his mother being buried and is then carried off by his father to the rodeo circuit, the only life Ty will know as he grows up. But when he reaches thirty—divorced, alone, and constantly on the move from show to dusty show—Ty can sense it’s time to quit. Abruptly, almost without thinking, he returns to southern Arizona and to the childhood homestead that has been watched over by neighbors Ware and Suzanne Lewis, who are like family to the lonely cowboy. One day he finds a small, brown-skinned woman trembling on his porch. He takes her in out of pity, seeing she is starving, hurt, and, as it turns out, pregnant. Going by the name Mana, she cleans and cooks for Ty but never bonds with him or her infant daughter. Ty adopts the little girl, whom he names Lita, falsely claiming paternity. Mana meanwhile gradually slips away, presumably to Mexico. Sometimes, though, young Lita sees a “dark woman” who mysteriously appears and seems to be watching her. Meantime, Ty has met Claire, a woman he can trust and perhaps learn to love. Also included in Ty’s “mixed” family is CJ, a boy who has deep resentments against Ty but is inevitably drawn to Lita. Life for Ty and his entourage might have fallen into a certain normalcy but for Blanco, a notorious drug lord and slave trafficker. He contacts Ty, demanding to meet Lita, who he swears is his own flesh and blood.

Author Elizabeth Zinn resides in the stark but alluring Southwestern landscape about which she writes so passionately. She has the skill to convey the sensuous warmth of the place, its wildlife and rocky beauty, and its dry, at times alien barrenness. Within this setting she has fashioned a rich patchwork quilt that combines colorful bits of multiple themes into the overall pattern: Ty’s accession to the somewhat hum-drum life of a rancher after so many years on the road; thorny issues of Mexican immigration with a realistic glimpse of events on our southern border; and the challenges of daily life in a cross-cultural, multi-racial, “blended” family.

As Lita grows up and becomes increasingly estranged from her adopted father, Ty has to acknowledge the sad truth of Claire’s gentle analysis: “Ty, all your life people have been leaving you.” Ty and his companions must deal with death, too, in all its forms: to a child, incomprehensible; to an older adult, natural if unwelcome; and in one case, to a killer, simple retribution.

Zinn’s fine crafting is revealed in the characters she has brought to life. For example, readers can picture Ty clearly—handsome, “even-natured,” and bit shy with the ladies. Then there are the others: Ware and Suzanne, who had grown alike in their old age with “the same gray hair, deeply tanned skin, faded plaid shirts, and scuffed boots;" the abused, alienated Mana, who will make an extreme, unexpected sacrifice for love; and Lita, being raised among kindly folk she knows intuitively are not her own people—not sure if she wants to know more about her personal history but powerfully drawn to explore it.

Zinn, whose book has been recognized in several award competitions, is a writer to watch. After immersing themselves in this emotive family saga, her readers will want to know more and to see what happens next both within and beyond the pages of this engaging novel.

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