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The Buffalo Soldier

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  5,566 ratings  ·  399 reviews
With his trademark emotional heft and storytelling skill, bestselling author Chris Bohjalian presents this resonant novel about the formation of an unconventional family–the ties that bind it, and the strains that pull it apart. Two years after their twin daughters died in a flash flood, Terry and Laura Sheldon, a Vermont state trooper and his wife, take in a foster child. ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published February 25th 2003 by Vintage (first published March 1st 2002)
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Community Reviews

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Grief-stricken over the drowning deaths of their twin daughters two years back, Laura and Terry take on a black foster son named Alfred in rural Vermont. Laura has been in a trance-like state since the drownings and believes the boy can help them, or at least her. Unfortunately, Terry thinks the same, that the boy is more for her sake than his. Therein lies the root of an emerging chasm in their marriage. Terry doesn't think he needs this boy nor does he make much effort to get to know or like h ...more
I found this book a bit slow to get into at first. There is a lot of backstory and a lot of description, which is nice -- but once I'm already invested in a story. I didn't really start caring about the characters until at least halfway through, and then I was mad at the dumb choices some of the characters had made. However, I really wanted to know how everything worked out for everyone by the end, so I started really getting into it by the last third of the book.

I have a few quibbles with the n
Alison Looney
I hate to let a "c'mon...really?" ending take away from what is otherwise a lush and engaging portrayal of a foster family's shuffling progress. I can't imagine a foster child story that doesn't explore the theme of how disparate people become a family, but Bohjalian takes it a step further. He explores not only how a young child and parent come to be a family, but how one's needs as an adult child, spouse, sibling, or grandparent aren't always met by the person who "should" fill that role. The ...more
Julie Whelan
This was the most amazing book. The characters were so vivid and engaging I would miss them and wonder what they were doing while I was at work. Parallel tracks: each chapter begins with a quotation from a diary of one of the "buffalo soldiers" (black cavalry soldiers who fought the Indians post civil war in the west)These are followed by a chapter told by one of the contemporary characters. The modern story revolves around a couple, Laura and Terry, who live in Cornish VT, and have lost their t ...more
In "The Buffalo Soldier", author Chris Bohjalian gives the reader two stories for the price of one: the first story being that of Terry and Laura Sheldon and their foster child Alfred, and the second being the story of George Rowe, "the buffalo soldier." Just as the circumstances and emotions surrounding the Sheldon girls' tragic deaths is a constant theme throughout the novel, so is the story of the buffalo soldiers. Perhaps it was because I listened to this novel on audio, but it is not appare ...more
If possible I would have rated this 3.5 stars - it just isn't as good as some of his other books to receive a 4 star rating. With that said, though, as usual, Bohjalian beautifully explores how human relationships are tested by the pressures of life.

The setting is rural Vermont. The focus is on a troubled couple, Laura and Terry Sheldon, whose 9 year old twin daughters die tragically in a flash flood. They are grief-stricken and their sorrow spills over into their marriage, threatening to tear i
Terry and Laura Sheldon are grieving over the death of their twin daughters in a flash flood and it's a strain on their marriage. They decide to foster a 10 year old African American boy. Laura and Alfred begin to bond, but Terry can't seem to relate to him. Terry has a love affair which threatens to destroy their marriage. Neighbors of the Sheldons, Alice and Paul Hebert, are drawn to Alfred and Paul gives him a book about the Buffalo Soldiers, an African American Army regiment during the Civil ...more
The last Bohjalian book I read was "Double Bind", which truly left me in a double bind. It is one of those narratives that makes you want to see the author's story board (ala the movie Memento). Bohjalian incorporated Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatspy" and my respect for him as a tremendous researcher (Midwives, Trans-Sister), expanded--he is clearly a very smart and literary guy too.

BUT, Double Bind made me feel sick. I couldn't put it down and I felt tortured by the subject matter. Upon finishin
This is an interesting book about a couple who suffer a terrible and unexpected loss that rends their family, the different ways they both respond to that loss, and their attempt to move forward and build a new family by taking in a foster child that they may later adopt. The portrait of the young couple working through these difficulties is contrasted with that of their neighbors, an older retired couple who have apparently weathered the stresses that can destroy the closest of marriages. The o ...more
Polly Gill
The Buffalo Soldier was certainly a good character book. Bohjalian gave us a number of well-rounded characters. The internal conflict of struggling with loss is a major issue in the book as we watch Terry and Laura try to recover from the devastating deaths of their twin girls. Enter a young black boy who is also scarred from years of traveling from foster home to foster home. Where Terry and Laura's fears are how they will continue to accept their changed lives, Alfred's fear is if Terry and La ...more
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Okay, I admit that I'm primed to like any book that Chris Bohjalian writes. But this book really touched my heart, and it was breaking for several of the characters. And somewhere along in the book I was almost hoping that one of the characters would die in a crash or something. I can't imagine what a couple must endure when they loose a child, much less two children in a terrible flood. That's what Laura and Terry have been struggling with when they take in a foster child, a ten-year-old, black ...more
Dawn Michelle

3 1/2 Stars

^^That rating may change as I think about and absorb this book.
I really like how he writes. And I loved the characters of Alfred and Paul. I felt they were really well developed. And I like Laura because I felt she was right where she should have been in her grief process.
Terry on the other hand....hmmm.

It HAS been decided though that grief does NOT give you a free pass. No matter how hard the author would like you to believe that it does.
Bohjalian has written a touching, sometimes heart-wrenching story of a couple who experienced the tragic deaths of their twin daughters.After a long period of grieving, they consent to take in a foster child, a little black boy, named Alfred. The author sensitively approaches the topic of foster care, particularly in an interracial arrangement.Although members of this small, close-knit community exhibited care and concern regarding the couple's loss, they are less kind to Alfred's situation. His ...more
One of Bohjalia'ns best, and he writes beautiful novels.
Lee Ann
The characters in this book became very real people to me--some I loved and others not so much. The connection of the present to the 1870's and the Buffalo Soldiers was wonderful. This is my first Chris Bohjalian book, but it won't be my last. I didn't especially like the author's style when the characters spoke; I couldn't always tell there was a conversation. That's the only reason I wouldn't give this one a five rating. Thanks again to my friend Ruth for recommending it and lending me her boo ...more
I liked this story a lot. The author has one little annoying quirk with his writing style but I won't tell you what it is and maybe you won't notice. Each chapter is written from the perspective of a different character which worked very well. The story is about a young white couple in Vermont who lose their 9-year old twin daughters in a flood and two years later take in a black 10-year old boy as a foster child. Good, good, good.
The tragedy of losing a child, let alone two at the same time, would be enough to rip most any couple apart. Taking in a 10-year old African-American foster child two years later, into a 100% white Vermont community was a risk. I loved seeing this story from so many perspectives, especially from the foster child. The lonliness of being rejected by his mom, then many other families, makes this child believe this family will reject him at any moment. The community is flood-prone, and the twins dro ...more
Denise Hlavka
So I continued with Bohjalian despite not liking the Double Bind so much.
Well rewarded...this book was very good! Another Vermont setting...Laura and Terry have lost their twin daughters two years earlier, as the story begins. Grief, loss, confusion have plagued them for two years, when they receive Alfred, a foster child. The adjustment isn't easy for Terry. Alfred becomes a part of the Heberts life, retired neighbors who teach him about horses. The story is told from several perspectives and b
Another great book by Chris Bohjalian. I read it while I was on vacation, and couldn't put it down. The author researches his subjects thoroughly and develops great characters you love or hate. Touching story about a couple who invites a foster child into their family after losing their twin daughters. If you've read and enjoyed other books by this author, you'll love this one too!
Lee D'anna
This is my fourth book by Chris Bohjalian (third this summer) and I'm pretty sure I will read his others. Simply put,he is just a good storyteller. I admit I love Vermont so reading books that take place there is a plus but Bohjalian has a way of describing the scenery in a way that makes the reader feel like they are actually there. He also is adept at character development - his characters and the situations he puts them in are (for the most part)realistic. Although in this book, some of the e ...more
Chris Bohjalian’s, The Buffalo Soldier opens with the death of twin girls at the hands of a flooded Vermont river. The book also ends with a flood which provides a frame to the novel The dramatic opening thankfully distances the reader by using an omniscient voice.
Two years after the flood the parents of the girls, Terry and Laura Sheldon, agree to foster parent a young black boy. Terry and Laura’s neighbors, Emily and Paul Hebert, give the boy a book on Buffalo Soldiers that follows the life of
I discovered Chris Bohjalian while visiting the Kershaw County Library last summer. They had set up a display of his books, promoting him as one of their favorite authors. I read several of the book jackets and eventually took home one of his books. It was love at first read. This author envelopes you with each sentence,keeping you mesmerized in the world of his characters. The Buffalo Soldier is no different.
This is a book of love, love that transcends pain, race and the definition of family.
I thoroughly enjoy reading Bohjalian's novels. I think what I like most about him is he takes real-life issues and moral obligations, and writes about them in ways that readers can relate to. I can't say this was my favorite novel of his, but it was (as usual) a good read and a recommended author.
Apr 19, 2010 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Trina, Erin, Dana, Pat, Miriam, Ginny, Renee, Margaret
Recommended to Jennifer by: Barksdale
Shelves: favorites
I absolutely loved this beautiful book. It is beautifully written, beautifully structured, with truly interesting characters who you have the time to get to know well. I loved the pace of it and how, despite there not being a lot of action, I found myself unable to put it down.
Bonnye Reed
Family. That which you are given, and that you have chosen. This book brings forth the need we all share for the closeness implied by the very word 'family'. Chris Bohjalian paints all the heartfelt emotions for us to relive, in a book that is hard to put down.
I am fast becoming a fan of Bohjalian. Each book is different from the others. In this novel, the story bounces between several characters and their perspective. This could be awkward, but Bohjalian made it work. I love his story flow and use of the exact word for the situation - what a joy to have an author use the English language so well.
I am not going to rehash the plot. Only say that I had to quit reading on several nights because I was sure something awful was going to happen and I had
Jill Manske
I really liked this book very much. Bohjalian is a master storyteller. It begins with a tragedy (the drowning deaths of twin daughters) and how the lives of a Vermont couple are forever changed. The story follows the couple as they try to find their way back and how the tragic loss of their children brings them closer and then further apart. Thrown into the mix is a 10-year-old African American foster child who has bounced across several foster homes in his young life and his struggles to fit in ...more
I enjoyed this look into what makes a family and how that definition evolves. It was a well written book and touched on some difficult topics, but I always enjoy how this author never runs away from the issues.
Nicole Curtis
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Lincoln, Vermont’s Chris Bohjalian is the author of 17 books, including ten New York Times bestsellers. His work has been translated into roughly 30 languages and three times become movies.

The paperback of his most recent novel, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, was just published.

His books have been chosen as Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Hartford Cour
More about Chris Bohjalian...

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“A day doesn't go by when I don't look at them, she said. I can't have them up on the kitchen refrigerator or in a frame in the bedroom--I just can't do it, I just can't run into them casually when I'm supposed to be doing something else--but I also can't last a day without seeing them. Visiting with them when I am alone in the house.” 3 likes
“He moved quickly away from her through the ring, his whole body starting forward with the big animal in two-point and then -- the horse's legs extended before and behind her, a carousel pony but real, the immense thrust invisible to anyone but the boy on the creature's back -- he was rising, rising, rising. . .
And aloft.”
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