Sleepless in Montana
Warning: If you are looking for a story similar to Sleepless in Seattle, this book will not deliver that lighthearted and funny feeling.
I grinned when I read the setting of this story because Sweet Grass County is adjacent to the county I live in, and Big Timber, Montana does exist. I’ve been there many times. Alas, I have never seen any of the Kodiak men there! Kodiak, Montana, does not exist, although there are many tiny, tiny towns in Montana like it. Ms. London does an excellent job capturing the spirit and descriptions of Montana. She gets the locations correct, as is evidenced by her description of the Crazy Mountains. I can see the Crazy Mountains from where I live, and Big Timber is east from here. I like it when authors know what they are talking about. Ms. London also does an excellent job describing some of the men in Montana. There are men here just like the ones described in this book. They are not as much fun in real life; sorry guys, all that dysfunction is not attractive, really. Ranchers have tough jobs and hard lives, ranching doesn’t leave much time for developing healthy relationship and communication skills.
The Kodiak family makes dysfunctional appear as a mild description. Non-communicative, long suffering, tortured jerks who make everyone’s lives miserable would be more accurate. Hogan Kodiak is the bastard, half-breed son of rancher Ben Kodiak. Ben is a cold man on the outside, one who has never learned to talk about his feelings. Hogan has grown up to be the same. Hogan deeply resents his father for the hell he put the family through. None of the family escaped Ben’s harshness, including Hogan’s half-siblings Aaron and Carley, adopted son Mitch, and Dinah, Ben’s long-suffering ex-wive.
Hogan has finally returned to Montana to soothe his soul (and irritate Ben), when he is confronted by Carley’s long-standing best friend, Jemma. Jemma spent summers with the Kodiak family and adopted them as her own. Jemma is interesting, to say the least, and disturbs Hogan’s peace of mind.
Jemma has tried for years to repair the Kodiak family. Jemma has many of her own demons to face, but truly loves the Kodiaks. She drives them all crazy, but has been a true friend to Carley. An awful event in Carley’s past may give Jemma the leverage she needs to bring the family back together. If she can get Hogan to agree to leave Ben alone for Carley’s sake, she may succeed. Jemma has always been fascinated with Hogan, but she allows no one but Carley to truly get close to her. She never stops doing, doing, doing, going, going, going. She has a thousand interests, none of which last for very long.
This is not an easy read. The title is apt – all these characters are racked with so much pain, I’m surprised anyone slept at all. This book is not just about Hogan and Jemma. Each character has their own story and their own romance. This might sound as though it is too jammed up, but the author did an amazing job giving each couple the limelight, without overwhelming the story. Each person has their own baggage to overcome, and by doing that, is able to help mend the family. Sleepless in Montana is beautiful and heart-wrenching.
There are a couple of flaws, however, that detract from the book. The sub-plot used to bring the family together involves a villain, whom I easily spotted. Because the characters are so rich and complex, this plotting device could have been left out and some other method used to bring the family together. I also found myself struggling with the writing on occasion. Time changes, and conversation shifts between the characters were not always clear, creating breaks in the narrative.
Ultimately though, this story is about troubled souls learning to communicate their feelings, and accepting others for who they are, not who you want them to be. I read very few books set in Montana, because so many authors get it wrong; I can wholeheartedly say this is not the case here. The succinct, non-communicative, native Montanan in me says, just read it.