The Buffalo Soldier
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The Buffalo Soldier

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3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  4,738 ratings  ·  334 reviews
From the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Midwives and Trans-Sister Radio comes a hauntingly beautiful story of the ties that bind families—and the strains that pull them apart.


In northern Vermont, a raging river overflows its banks and sweeps the nine-year-old twin daughters of Terry and Laura Sheldon to their deaths. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the hig...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published March 5th 2002 by Shaye Areheart Books (first published March 1st 2002)
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Karyl
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...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
Melissa
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
Quiltgranny
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...more
Linda
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
Kat
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...more
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
Edwina
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
Barbara
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
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
Barbara
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!
Tilara
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....more
Ashley
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.
Jennifer
Apr 19, 2010 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Nicole
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.
Amy
I agree with some of the other reviewers who deemed this novel slow, but I did enjoy it more than some of Bohjalian's other works that I've read in the last year (the Sandcastle Girls, in particular). As always, he paints a beautiful picture of the characters in their surroundings - the weather they experience, the homes they live in - and I feel that helps me know them.

I appreciated Alfred, Emily, and Paul and truly wanted to feel for Laura, but both Laura and Terry seemed too flat for me. Pho...more
Barner
Good! When I realized that the author of this novel is also the author of MIDWIVES, a book I read several years ago --and enjoyed--, I had to read this one immediately. I was not disappointed. The story is believeable most of the time: some of the events at the novel's end are a little too contrived, and the ending worked out almost too well, BUT the story and the character development are good.

The chapter heading quotes about the Buffalo soldiers work very well and offer an insightful parallel...more
Becky
Ahh Bohjalian. I've loved everyone of his books, and this did not disappoint.

Alfred is a 10-year old African-American foster-child who has been shuttled from home to home, until he is placed with Laura and Terry. This couple is grieving for their 9-year old twin daughters drowned in a flood two years before.

Alfred is sullen until the next door neighbor, Paul Herbert introduces him to the buffalo soldiers and horses. What I love is how Bohjalian weaves in materials - The Great Gatsby in The Dou...more
Carolyn
When trajedy strikes, it's all in what you decide to do next--get busy living, or escape from the reality of it.

For whatever reason, the author choose to intertwine the story of three unconventional families. Terry and Laura Sheldon have just taken in an African American foster boy in a very white area. While the Terry and Laura struggle through recent grief, betrayal, and secrets, their foster child, Alfred, befriends an old, retired professor, Paul Herbert, who teaches him about Buffalo Soldie...more
Emily
Chris Bohjalian's books take two or three issues that people tend to have strong opinions about, and somehow make them all come together into one cohesive novel where the issues are not the stars of the story and no bias on the author's part is revealed. The reader is not asked to form a decisive stance on the issues, and the book does not lay the controversies of the issues to rest. The issues are there without being introduced, and the story line does not focus on them, but rather weaves throu...more
Kathleen Hagen
The Buffalo Soldier, by Chris Bohjalian, Narrated by Alison Fraser, Produced by Random House audio, Downloaded from audible.com.

In northern Vermont, a raging river overflows its banks and sweeps the nine-year-old twin daughters of Terry and Laura Sheldon to their deaths.For two years the couple grieves, mostly separately, with little discussion, and with Laura almost unable to rise from bed in the morning. Then Laura decides, and convinces Terry, that they should take in a foster child. The coun...more
Patricia
I loved the two other books I read by this author: Midwives and Trans-Sister Radio. I liked the way he took an out of mainstream topic (home birth, sex change operations/NPR) and wove that topic into a gripping narrative. This book I didn't love as much as the ones I read before, but I still found myself reading "just a little bit more."

Terry and Laura's twin daughters are killed in a flood. Two years later, they take in a foster child Alfred, an African American, who is not sure what he thinks...more
Asha
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tamsen
Nobody writes like Chris Bohjalian - or as our book club calls him "Chris B." -- we had difficulty pronouncing his last name when we first discovered his work.

Chris B. (I have difficulty calling him anything else now!) is one of those amazing writers who writes these beautiful, quiet, powerful sentences. He explores each character in such detail that you feel deeply connected to each person. I also respect how thoroughly he researches each subject matter - from the Vermont foster care system to...more
Heather
Jun 28, 2011 Heather rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: beach readers? - not great, but fairly easy
Recommended to Heather by: Maria
Shelves: adult
This was a fairly low 3, and a big disappointment after reading Trans-Sister Radio during grad school. I had to give it 3 stars though b/c although one of my complaints is that it was slow/boring, it did hold my attention for long periods of sitting outside on my deck. I just thought it was a lot weaker than it could have been - even though the plot was minimal and the jacket made it sound like it would be a great character exploration, I thought it really fell short in that regard - which is to...more
Liz
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan
Chris Bohjalian reminds me a bit of John Irving in his novels--perhaps with a touch of Richard Russo and the late great John Gardner. He writes about characters who have endured terrible tragedy and how that tragedy impacts their lives. In this book Terry and Laura Sheldon have lost their twin daughters to a monstrous flood that sweeps the children to their death. In an effort to heal her marriage and her pain, Laura decides to become a foster parent, and Terry reluctantly accedes to her plan. T...more
Anne
This is the second of Chris Bohjalian's books that I have read (the first being Midwives), and he is fast becoming one of my all-time favourite authors.

When Laura and Terry Sheldon foster Alfred, the whole of the small Vermont town in which they live seens to be disrupted. Two years ago the Sheldon's twin daughters were drowned in a tragic accident - this incident had already shocked the townspeople - so the introduction of a 10 year old black boy into the family will either bring them together...more
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Chris Bohjalian is the author of seventeen books, including Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, arriving July 8, 2014 from Doubleday.

His other books include such New York Times bestsellers as The Light in the Ruins, The Sandcastle Girls, The Night Strangers, Secrets of Eden, Skeletons at the Feast, The Double Bind, Before Your Know Kindness, and Midwives.

Chris's awards include the ANCA Arts and Letters...more
More about Chris Bohjalian...
Midwives The Double Bind The Sandcastle Girls Skeletons at the Feast The Light in the Ruins

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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.” 2 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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