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Bleeding Kansas

3.27  ·  Rating Details ·  1,534 Ratings  ·  329 Reviews
In Kansas, on land that once saw some of America's bloodiest antislavery battles, three families have coexisted for more than one hundred fifty years: the Grelliers, the Fremantles, and the Schapens. Once allies in the fight against slavery, today the Schapens and the Grelliers disagree on every subject, from organic farming to the war in Iraq, but above all on religion.

Hardcover, 448 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by Putnam Adult (first published January 1st 2007)
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James Cudney IV
Jan 07, 2012 James Cudney IV rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Sara Paretsky was one of the very first serial mystery fiction authors I began reading after Agatha Christie. I enjoyed her realistic slice of the harsh life with hardcore characters and a very strong female protagonist. I wasn't concerned over whether she'd do well writing a non-mystery, non-serial fiction novel; however, I was concerned whether I'd actually like it, but rest assured, there's no reason to be worried.

She spins quite a tale in this fiction work. The characters are quite vivid and
Jul 07, 2014 Judy rated it really liked it

The novel is not a V I Warshawski book but I read it now because I am going through Sara Paretsky's books in the order in which she published them. The only other non-Warshawski novel so far was Ghost Country but that one was set in Chicago, as are all the Warshwskis. This is a stand-alone set in Kansas.

I guess because of the title I thought it would be about the bloody conflict over slavery, John Brown, etc. Since I read The Good Lord Bird earlier this year, I figured that would be fine.

Larry Bassett
Jan 16, 2012 Larry Bassett rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I have been reading some of Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski series and enjoying them. I got this book by mistake thinking it was part of the series. It is not. On GR it is misidentified as a mystery. It is only logical: Paretsky writes mysteries. Paretsky wrote Bleeding Kansas. Therefore, Bleeding Kansas is a mystery. Hardly. Fiction is what it is.

This is a book full of extremes. It has Wiccan. It has Hassidic Jews. It has born again Christians. It has locals who vehemently support and oppose the war
Nov 14, 2008 L rated it liked it
I think we're supposed to like Susan. I don't. She is just that annoying! I do, however, dislike most of the Schapens as thoroughly as is expected.

I guess this is Paretsky's ode to her home. The cover promises a "gripping novel," a "strong and stark protrayal of the heartland." Well, it does seem to be a solid, good read, populated with real people. The writing is as good as we expect frm Paretsky. For instance, " . . . she's one more teenager in a place where everyone seems to lead disturbed o
Jun 30, 2016 Thomas rated it really liked it
This library book interweaves present day Kansas with Kansas of the 1850s in the Kaw river valley, site of the Lawrence 1863 massacre by Quantrill and his raiders. They murdered hundreds of people. Descendants of the free settlers are the focus of the present day story, the Schapens and the Grelliers. The Schapens are self righteous bullies and the Grelliers try to get along with everyone. Then a woman by the name of Gina Haring arrives. She is a Wiccan and the ultra conservative Schapens call h ...more
Jan 19, 2009 Shruts rated it it was ok
This paperback weighs in just under 600 pages. As one might expect, this results in some pretty slow sections, particularly early on.

A long-time fan of Paretsky's VI Warshawski detective series, I was intrigued by this book's premise: connecting the pre-civil war strife in Kansas to modern days "warfare" between long time neighbors in the same town 150 years later. So I was rather surprised when I found I could easily put this book down with astonishingly transparent excuses.

I started this befo
Clif Hostetler
Aug 18, 2008 Clif Hostetler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
A quotation from the book that caught my attention:
"The hardest thing about adolescence is that everything seems too big. There's no way to get context or perspective, ..... Pain and joy without limits. No one can live like that forever, so experience finally comes to our rescue. We come to know what we can endure, and also that nothing endures." This is spoken by a high school English teacher to a student who has lost interest in school because of personal problems. In the context of the story
Jul 15, 2012 Keith rated it liked it
My previous exposure to Sara Paretsky was through her V.I. Warshawski novels. Warshawski is a tough lady detective pursuing criminals through the gritty landscape of urban Chicago. The setting for this novel is a far removed from Chicago, both geographically and culturally and without Warshawski. A forth generation Kansas farm family finds itself dealing with a quickly changing modern world, yet one that is still deeply rooted in the past. Jim Grellier is committed to his farming legacy and love ...more
Apr 28, 2015 Rod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just about the freakiest story i've ever heard. (and yet it reminds me of 100's of people i've met.) YES, these folks do exist. From Wiccans to Charismatic lunatics to just REALLY mean folks who use the Word LOVE in a hateful way.

But it's all horrifically fun! Imagine a small Kansas town with Christian liberals and Charismatics generally trying to avoid each other - then add some Naked Wiccan Fire dancers... Splendid chaos that ends up with the Chosen Red Heifer (Think Jewish Temple Altar sacri
Feb 04, 2008 Diane rated it liked it
Sara Paretsky's Bleeding Kansas has a strong sense of place, especially for those who are familiar with the Lawrence area. However, the characters aren't developed as flesh and blood people, but as signifiers for attitudes. The extremist right-wing Christians are too extreme even for someone like me who has little love for these people and their interfering ways. Jim, the patriarch of the good farm family, is too good to be true, always moderating his attitude and telling his daughter to avoid s ...more
May 01, 2008 Teeni rated it really liked it
New favorite author alert! There's nothing I love more than reading a terrific book and then finding out the author has other books on the library shelf! This is one of those authors. The story was good, the characters were real and I couldn't put it down.
Jun 27, 2010 Kathy rated it it was ok
The negative reviews I have read regarding this book deal mostly with the stereotypes portrayed in this book. However, knowing a real-life family just like the Schapens from a small-town farming community in Illinois, I knew that the religious-zealots portrayed in this story were not entirely fabricated. My friend’s mother was EXACTLY like Nanny Schapen!!! That is not why I disliked the book; in fact I really liked it up until the events on Halloween (near the end). My reason for giving this boo ...more
Mar 27, 2011 Kristie rated it did not like it
If I could have given 1/2 of a star, I would have because this was such a poorly written book. I am embarrassed to say I helped to choose this one for my book club and it was unanimous--each of us was thoroughly disappointed in the story and all of the historical inaccuracies. (The good thing is we now have a new low for a baseline when we don't like a book--is it as bad as or worse than "Bleeding Kansas"?)

The story was convoluted with every societal issue possible--teenage sex, over the top rel
Jan 15, 2010 Tamela rated it did not like it
I've read Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski novels and I assumed this would be similar. Unfortunately, I let myself be influenced by my enjoyment of the Warshawski novels, and was therefore completely blindsided by "Bleeding Kansas." This is one time Paretsky should have stuck to the knitting. "Bleeding Kansas" was not well written, the characters felt like caricatures rather than believable actors and the whole thing felt disjointed, sort of like a cake with raspberry filling and pickle-flavored frost ...more
Jan 19, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it
I first picked this book up at the library because of the author. I love her mysteries, so I didn't read the back of the book. It was the unabridged audio version. I started listening and was waiting and waiting for the mystery to kick in but needless to say it didn't. I almost quit listening but then it hooked me.

This is a story of a small town and 3 of the families that live there: Grelliers, Schapens and Burtons. It addresses old conflicts in a modern era and Paretsky does it remarkably. The
Feb 16, 2009 Tabatha rated it did not like it
This is the WORST book I ever finished. The author chooses to set a novel about bible belt Christians in one of the most liberal towns in all of the midwest and plains. This is just one of the improbabilities and extremes in this story. The characters have no redeeming qualities except Jim. He is the only one who seems "real." She sets the novel with some attention to detail about local history and geography then makes up fictitious locations that would have relevance to the story. The story has ...more
Nov 18, 2011 Nancy rated it it was ok
There were too many characters in the book. It was difficult to follow. I live fairly close to the location to the story and went to school at Lawrence. There were some locations that fit the area, but the people of the area do not fit the people of the town. The title was misleading and let me to believe that the story was set pre civil war which is what the title refers to. I am sorry the author left such a negative impression of the people of the area. There were some interesting characters b ...more
Feb 13, 2014 Tomi rated it really liked it
I dithered about what rating to give this book, but after I found myself reliving it and yelling at the characters while running errands this morning, I realized it deserved 4 stars. It is a novel about consequences. There are only three characters who are even remotely decent people and they are the ones who suffer tremendously due to what others (the jerks) do. Most of the characters are downright evil, despicable toads - Paretsky does an excellent job of describing them. I hated them all. Per ...more
Jul 23, 2009 Susan rated it liked it
A novel about a farm family living in the husband's ancestral home where the battles between abolitionists and pro-slavery caused many deaths. The wife is obsessed with the history and not very grounded, has named her older child Etienne after an ancestor and won't accept that he hates the name and goes by Chip. The younger child often has to be the adult in the family. The husband does his best but is wrapped up in his farm and doesn't always put the kids first. There are hateful neighbors who ...more
Jun 02, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it
I loved this book. Not really sure why. It could certainly come under the 'soap opera' category; Who's dating who? Is So-and-so gay? Backstabbing. Love letters. Diary excerpts. It's all here. I could certainly understand BK ending up on your DNF list. But amongst the suds I found characters to cheer for, settings I could relate to, and an interesting drama detailing the challenges faced by 2 farming dynasties.
Jan 18, 2008 Deborah rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Mark, Robbie
I liked this book more than I expected to. I almost sent in back to the library unread. An interesting look at faith and morality in modern times, as well as a look at the dynamics of farming communities in the twilight of the American family farm. This is also the second book I've read this month that concerns the "unblemished red heifer."
Feb 05, 2008 Doug rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite novels of the past year. Sara Paretsky does a Wonderful job of writing about two different eras in Kansas. So many novels that attempt to do that seem choppy to me - not this one. This novel integrates the two eras and stories extraordinarily well.
Feb 17, 2014 Renee rated it it was amazing
One of my favorites so far this year. And I know a lot more about Kansas than I did before. Bonus.
Feb 19, 2017 Susan rated it really liked it
This is not a V. I. Warshawski novel, rather it is set in Kansas where Paretsky grew up. It's been years since I read it, and I do remember the basics of the plot (which I won't go into here). I also remember that I found it as enjoyable to read as a Vic novel, and I encourage fans of the Warshawski novels to read this one as well.
Jan 03, 2017 Patty rated it liked it
Really interesting! A little slow at first but i couldn't put it down in the last 1/4. This book has more than one character that was very unlikeable yet it kept my interest.
Lydia Lewis
Feb 13, 2017 Lydia Lewis rated it it was amazing
It shed some light on a part of the country, it's history and nature, that I was not familiar with.
Jan 15, 2017 Phil rated it liked it
Well enough written, but not my cup of tea.
Jan 12, 2017 Kim added it
Took awhile to get into the book. The ending was good.
Donna Davis
Feb 23, 2013 Donna Davis rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Paretsky is a true champion, and she has stepped away from her well known series here to take on a topic close to her heart. In her memoir, Writing in an Age of Silence, she discusses her upbringing in a small Kansas town named Lawrence, in which hers is the only Jewish family to step forward and demand an end to the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of the school day in the only local public high school.

She is punished for this by having to sit in the office or step out into the aisles during asse
May 09, 2010 Shannon rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: I'm not so sure...
Recommended to Shannon by: Favorite Author
Shelves: 2010
My cat just hit the mouse such that my entire review of this book just disappeared. Can I just say "ARRRGGGHHH!!!" So, I will try to recreate what I said because I have to admit that (1.) I don't like to write and (2.) I don't think that I am a good writer, so I am about at my limit for writing for the day since I have been catching up on reviews that I have neglected on Goodreads.

I was not able to write a review immediately for this novel...that may be partly an excuse because I like to read so
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Sara Paretsky is a modern American author of detective fiction. Paretsky was raised in Kansas, and graduated from the state university with a degree in political science. She did community service work on the south side of Chicago in 1966 and returned in 1968 to work there. She ultimately completed a Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago, entitled The Breakdown of Moral Philosophy in New E ...more
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“The hardest thing about adolescence is that everything seems too big. There's no way to get context or perspective, ..... Pain and joy without limits. No one can live like that forever, so experience finally comes to our rescue. We come to know what we can endure, and also that nothing endures.” 36 likes
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