A Tunnel in the Sky

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Between the Blood and the Sun
by Jennifer R. Donohue

Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted January 1, 2024

Buy for Kindle from Amazon. A purchase through our links may earn us a commission. Available for other e-readers, Nook, Kobo, etc, but there is no listing at Bookshop at this time since they do not offer e-books. If and when it comes to print I will update.

My comments will be brief. Another first-person narrative, this time by a woman, "Hazel Smith," who stumbles out of the desert and into a mysterious town. It is a small town, mainly just one street, a saloon, general store, and a church. No school, and very few houses or other buildings. Just one stable too, and no sign of any other horse besides her own, which she had won at a poker table in another town. She thinks she saw a couple of kids and older people at first, but later decides that had to have been a mirage, since she never sees them again. The few people she meets are friendly enough, but it seems their pattern of life is repetitive day to day. Bessie runs the general store, but rarely ventures outside. Seth, who may or may not be her husband, takes an interest in Hazel. He tells her the town had originally been built because of a nearby mine, but that proved a bust, as did the dried-up spring waters which they thought had restorative properties. There are three or four other men she only sees in the saloon. If the town is that dead, where do they get the money to sit around drinking whiskey and beer, and losing at poker? Why does she never see anyone else enter the general store, and when and from where does Bessie get her stock? Why doesn't anyone else go to the church?

Hazel is dying, or at least she says she is. Probably cancer, since she carries a bottle of laudanum, but the bottle remains full, held for the end when she feels there is no hope. No reason to doubt her, since her words are full of despair and hopelessness, and she welcomes the priest to read her last rites. Another odd thing there, a Catholic priest (even though he doesn't dress like one) in a town where you would expect a Protestant minister. Perhaps that is why none of the townsfolk enter his church. Or they may have other reasons. A lot of odd things going on, and Hazel proves to have her own odd traits too. She displays one of them when Seth takes her to see the closed mine, which had also been the source of the spring that dried up. She surprised him with that, something that comes in handy later on.

This is the shortest of Donohue's stories I've read yet. If it is a novella it might just barely be, or it could be a long novelette. Short on words, but strong in narrative power. She is great at setting the mood, describing both the landscapes without and within the heart of her characters. I have not been disappointed by any of her stories, and I look forward to more.


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Jennifer R. Donohue

July 15, 2023

Purchase Links:
At this time, only available as an ebook - Kindle.
No listing at Bookshop.

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