Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett is a delight to read. The spirited dialogue flows smoothly and the pacing is spot-on. Historical fiction fans will savor every twist and turn. Barnett’s third novel in the Vintage National Park series is complete with a mystery, romance, and fascinating sub-plots. Like the previous novels in the series, the historical details are accurate and increase the book’s appeal.
Set in Yellowstone National Park during the Depression, the focus on the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) allows readers to get a glimpse of their contributions to our National Parks. While telling their story, readers are treated to some insights on the challenges these men faced prior to joining up, their backgrounds, and their hopes during a desperate time in America’s history. You’ll also laugh along with them as you experience their antics around camp. Nate Webber is a natural leader and a bright star in the story.
When the spotlight is away from the CCC camp, we meet three young ladies who are regular seasonal employees at the park. Elsie, Mary, and Rose are best friends who have spent many summers together but soon will be stepping into new life stages. Mary and Rose are close to college graduation with their future before them. Elsie finally has raised the necessary tuition and plans to attend college in the fall. Their friendship is a key ingredient of this story.
Ranger Brookes and Ranger Vaughan are also characters to love. Ranger Brookes, (Elsie’s Dad), is wise and kind-hearted. Ranger Vaughan not so much. When we first meet him, he is brash, condescending, and not very likeable.
The characters in Ever Faithful are vibrant. If there’s a fourth book planned for this series, I vote for seeing their stories continue a few years later at Glacier Park. At the end of Ever Faithful, some of the characters move north anyways due to employment or college so let’s see how their lives might unfold at this national park on Montana’s northern border. There’s more to tell with Elsie, Nate, Charlie, Red, and Mary. Readers would love to meet these characters again and not have to say goodbye quite yet.
I appreciate how Karen Barnett weaves a little science and reflections on the natural world into her novels. In Ever Faithful, her characters take hikes, enjoy scenic views, and interact with wildlife. Naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts will love this story.
Another strength running through this book is all the ways the characters were empathetic. We see Elsie, as a teacher, demonstrate acceptance and tolerance of different learning styles. Mary recognizes that supporting people and encouraging their dreams is an important part of every relationship. Elsie’s Mom, shares how forgiveness needs to be bestowed and living in the past is not a recipe for future success.
This is a book you’ll naturally want to share with friends. But you will ask for it to be returned because you will not want to lose it from your bookshelf. I read the previous two novels in the Vintage National Park series. I received an advanced readers’ copy of Ever Faithful from WaterBrook & Multnomah in exchange for my honest review.