Elise Brooks lost her husband 8 months ago when, driving her car, sailed off the edge of a cliff. She has been lost in grief and guilt every day since it happened, especially since she saw it happen in a dream almost a month in advance. Even knowing how in-tune Michael and that part of her family were with dreams and the spirit world, she never told him about her dream, because she didn't see him in the car. Now, she can't help blaming herself.
After finally working up the courage to unlock and enter Michael's studio, which sits on their land, very near their cabin, she encounters her husbands final piece of art. He brought beautiful birds to life, carving them from found pieces of wood, and on a table in the middle of the room sat a 2 foot tall raven, with obsidian eyes.
Not long after, she sees an actual raven that seems to be watching her; she also hears someone calling her name and often sees movement from the corner of her eye. Michael was Native American, as is her best friend (and Michael's cousin) since elementary school, Monica. She was present at many family functions and knew their connection with the earth and belief in the spirit world. Lorena, Monica's mom, is even a healer.
The scent of roasting green chiles, as much a part of New Mexico fall as the cottonwoods, wafted on the breeze.
She'd always doubted her own ability to figure things out, but in the end, realized (with much help) that she was the only one who could truly know what path she needed to be on.
I found the story and the settings (from Northern New Mexico to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee) to be absolutely enchanting. I've always had a connection with Native American heritage and art, as well as a belief in the spirit world, and those sensitive enough to be a bridge between our two worlds, and In the Blue Hour had all of these things and more. I actually found myself shivering at parts, as I often do when opening myself up to that deeper connection.
If you've read and enjoyed the book Isabel's Daughter by Judith Ryan Hendricks, then you should definitely run, not walk, to pick up a copy of this book.
And the food! There was so much food. If you're not craving enchiladas, a bowl of green or red chili with homemade tortillas, huevos rancheros, or a cream pie as you read these pages...you're not paying attention. There were also mentions of other deliciousness like pot roast, prickly pears, chicken salad sandwiches, pulled pork and coleslaw, wild plums, apples, currants, coffee, lemonade, tomatoes, trout, pizza, steak, almond-crusted brie, mango chicken enchiladas, kale salad, guacamole, gravy and biscuits, green beans with bacon...I could continue.
Both women knelt on a blanket, picking piñon nuts, trying to fill their numerous coffee cans. The Madrid family, like many families in this area, had been harvesting piñon nuts for generations, and Elise had been a part of the outing for as long as she could remember. All during the fall and winter, Lorena would take small batches of the nuts, soak them in salt water, then toss them in her heated cast-iron skillet until the water had steamed off and the shells were left with a salty, deep-brown coating.
I really wanted to make something that used piñon nuts (or pine nuts) in honor of the Madrid family (Monica and Michael's family) that harvested them every year, and had been for generations. I also wanted to use the roasted New Mexico chiles that I was craving so badly throughout the book. So, I found a recipe from an Edible magazine for meatballs that utilized both, saying that roasted chiles and pine nuts were a staple in New Mexico freezers.
I wound up turning the mixture into burgers...unusual burgers studded with raisins, pine nuts, and onions that were infused with brown sugar and allspice. They were good, if a bit unusual, but I can see how the picadillo-ish meat mixture would make fabulous meatballs.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.