Saffire by Sigmund Brouwer is the story of a Dakota cowboy, James Holt, who finds himself thrust into the politics of Panama during the building of the canal in 1909. Though Holt had no interest in either politics or the canal, he went because a former friend asked him – and if there’s one thing this cowboy took seriously – it’s honor. While he’s in Panama, he meets a young girl by the name of Saffire, who is searching for her missing mother. With Saffire sharing the same age as his daughter back in the Dakota’s, Holt feels a tug on his heart strings to help her, and with that, the adventure begins…
I loved this book! The author did a brilliant job of bringing the culture and politics of this time period together for an unforgettable story. All the characters were memorable and took on a life of their own. You’ll fall in love with Saffire – the girl who’s determined to find her missing mother; be entertained by T. B. Miskimon – the eccentric employ of the colonel who has to follow Holt everywhere and be swept up with the Jamaican, German and other people who made this novel a delight of cultural backgrounds and beliefs. Literally, you never know where the next page will take you!
One of the things I enjoyed most was how the author placed you in the time period so completely. Upon Holt’s arrival in Panama, he stood on the observation deck and thought, “It was said that the only accomplishment that might ever be more wondrous than connecting the oceans would be a flight to the moon, and since that was impossible, the digging of the canal would be the pinnacle of human marvel.” (page 8). In another place, the novel gives another glimpse into how significant the canal was at that time when Holt said, in effect, that he felt sorry for future generations because there would nothing else to achieve in the world after the canal connected the two oceans. Little things like this thrilled me because it made you understand the importance of the Panama Canal during the turn of the century, and of course, how far we’ve come since then. And might I add here, that the author had an amazing way of slipping in the staggering facts and engineering feats of the canal throughout the story? This is one novel where history was so closely made part of the story that reading the facts and figures was a delight and added real value to the work. Excellent writing!
Every now and then I’ll be online where folks ask for book recommendations for men. Typically the recommendation comes with the qualification, “no romance, please.” Saffire is definitely one to be added to that recommendation list. The novel has a male lead who narrates the story from a first person point of view; and I really enjoyed how the author didn’t just write “about” a male character, but drew you into their personality, struggles and plans for the future. As someone who reads a lot of different genres, I was captivated by how this story came across as authentic and believable. It felt fresh and easy to read, something I think would be appealing to male readers.
Conclusion: If I could give this book ten stars, I would. It was well written, had a captivating story line, deep characters and reminded readers about the most significant engineering feats in American history. I was so impressed with this novel that I’ll be looking into other books by this author. Highly recommend Saffire!