Oline Cogdill

Sara Paretsky, as most of us know, is best known for her mystery fiction about Chicago private detective V.I. Warshawski.

But it’s Paretsky’s 2008 stand-alone novel Bleeding Kansas that is getting a push in Kansas.

The Kansas Center for the Book has picked Bleeding Kansas as its “Kansas Reads” novel.

Kansas Reads is a one-book/one-state reading and discussion project for adult readers. According to its website, “titles are selected for broad-based appeal to encourage spirited discussion among readers at libraries, booksellers and other partners statewide. This year, our selection reflects the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement.”

Bleeding Kansas is a tale about farmers, feuds, religion, bigotry and forgiveness.

In my review of Bleeding Kansas, I described the plot as such:

Two farming families are at the heart of the story -- the Grelliers and the Schapens, both of whose ancestors settled into the same valley during the 1850s as antislavery emigrants. Animosity through the years have turned the families into enemies and Paretsky sharply divides the characters into the good, the Grelliers, and the bad, the Schapens. Jim Grellier is a hard-working farmer whose wife, Susan, is into “big causes,” throwing herself into one failed farm project after another. She’s obsessed about the lives and sacrifices made by her husband’s pioneer ancestors.

The Schapens also work hard at their farm, but they also work even harder at spewing hate toward their neighbors. Matriarch Myra maintains a Web site on which she venomously discusses her neighbors’ lives. Both families are devout Christians, yet the Schapens believe only their brand of religion is right.

Paretsky perfectly captures the hardships of family farms, the money woes and each family’s dependence on the other. Kansas is vividly presented, giving not just a view of its beauty but also its political and social landscape, I stated later in my review.