The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook
Early one morning in the remote hill country of Texas, a panther savagely attacks a family of homesteaders, mauling a young girl named Samantha and killing her mother, whose final act is to save her daughter’s life. Samantha and her half brother, Benjamin, survive, but she is left traumatized, her face horribly scarred.
Narrated in Benjamin’s beguilingly plainspoken voice, The Which Way Tree is the story of Samantha’s unshakeable resolve to stalk and kill the infamous panther, rumored across the Rio Grande to be a demon, and avenge her mother’s death. In their quest she and Benjamin, now orphaned, enlist a charismatic Tejano outlaw and a haunted, compassionate preacher with an aging but relentless tracking dog. As the members of this unlikely posse hunt the panther, they are in turn pursued by a hapless but sadistic Confederate soldier with troubled family ties to the preacher and a score to settle.
In the tradition of the great pursuit narratives, The Which Way Tree is a breathtaking saga of one steadfast girl’s revenge against an implacable and unknowable beast. Yet with the comedic undertones of Benjamin’s storytelling, it is also a timeless tale full of warmth and humor, and a testament to the enduring love that carries a sister and brother through a perilous adventure with all the dimensions of a legend.
One of the things that I miss the most about my dad is talking books with him. He was a voracious reader and we constantly swapped books back and forth. When I received The Which Way Tree from Little Brown and started reading it, I knew that this would have been a book that he would have loved. Set in Texas with a heavy Old West influence, The Which Way Tree is a story of obsession and revenge as young Samantha sets out on an epic journey to hunt and destroy the panther that killed her mother and left Sam permanently disfigured. Dad enjoyed reading anything set in his home state and he LOVED Old West tales, as well as stories of man (or woman ) vs. beast. This was a bittersweet read for me because I know he would have a lot to say about this one. The Which Way Tree is out now in a bookstore near you and I really enjoyed it. 4 big Texas stars.