Review of Almira and the Backward Family by Eugenio Negro

This is a novella that spins a dark tale set during the California gold rush. The story revolves around Almira, a confused nine-year old girl and her family. She lives with her mother, a woman trying to tide through tough times ; Almiraher stepfather, a gold prospector down on the side of luck and hounded by outlaws ; and two half brothers. The characters are woven with deliberate veracity and end up like contrasting brush-strokes on a captivating work of art.  The town of Mosquito is pictured as a bleak town with a sheriff trying his best to uphold the law.

Almira comes to believe that her stepfather killed her real father and doesn’t love her or her mother. Even as this belief begins to overwhelm the little girl, Thaddeus, the stepfather is working against odds to protect his family from an extortionist gang. In the middle of this slowly stewing broth, there is a sudden and mysterious supernatural occurrence, which is a bit disjointed from the rest of the story. As the dislike for her stepfather crosses a threshold in Almira, she plots and carries out a childish act of revenge that leads to tragic consequences. The author’s cold-as-steel narration coupled with an ominous depiction of the old west, makes for an interesting read.

Who should read: Short enough for anyone to read, but will appeal to those who enjoy dark and off-the-beaten-track stories

What it is not: While the protagonist is a child, the story is no child’s play

Overall rating: threeandhalfstars

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