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The Buffalo Soldier

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  6,462 Ratings  ·  496 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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Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nov-16
Probably my least favourite of his books so far and yet I really enjoyed it.
Jan 10, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Aug 31, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Mar 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, audio, fiction
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
Julie Whelan
Mar 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: booksread
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
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
Dec 11, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once of the things I enjoy most as a reader is emotional tension. Bohjalian is a master of it. By setting up the relationships among his characters--and making the reader care about them--he creates suspense around the smallest of actions. "The Buffalo Soldier" is no exception. And, as an added bonus (for me) he tells the story in alternating-point-of-view chapters.

This novel begins with a horrific event--the death by drowning of Terry and Laura's young twin daughters--and explores what happens
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
Polly Gill
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 13, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
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.
Joy Ray
Aug 09, 2016 rated it liked it
It was a good book, it kept me interested from beginning to end. I was disappointed with the ending and the loose ties to the history behind the title of the story. I would have liked to hear more about the connection to the Buffalo Soldiers and Alfred. It felt like Mr. Bohjalian got bored with writing the story and just ended it.
Aug 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Sharon Huether
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grief, family, adoption
A family in turmoil after their two twin daughters drowned in a storm. Two years later they take in a foster child.
Adjustment is hard.
Trust is even harder.
A neighbor sees an opportunity in introducing the boy to a horse. He excels.
Another storm and the boy goes above and beyond to prove himself.
An Unforgettable story
Aug 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite-authors
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!
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Bonnye Reed
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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.
Apr 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: goodread-authors
Very good. But what annoyed me was the very improbable notion of someone making love 2 days before her period and a week later she know she is pregnant, because she is 5 days late with her period... That is so unlikely!
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting story. It was intense at some points, hard to put down. I deinitely recommend it.
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.75. Lost the 4 star due to the ending. One of my favorite authors, going back to read some of his older titles.
Marsha Belflower
Mar 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy this author, so much diversity in his books. This is my favorite. It is a little slow at times, but a great character study.
Jul 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of Bohjalia'ns best, and he writes beautiful novels.
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Chris is the New York Times bestselling author of 20 books. Chris's work has been translated into over 30 languages and three times become movies ("Midwives," "Secrets of Eden," and "Past the Bleachers.")

The paperback of "The Sleepwalker" arrives this autumn.

"The Flight Attendant" lands March 13, 2018.

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“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.”
“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
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