The Buffalo Soldier

  • by Chris Bohjalian
  • Narrated by Alison Fraser
  • 12 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In northern Vermont, a raging river overflows its banks and sweeps the nine-year-old twin daughters of Terry and Laura Sheldon to their deaths. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the highway patrolman and his wife, unable to have more children, take in a foster child: a 10-year-old African-American boy who has been shuttled for years between foster families and group homes. Young Alfred cautiously enters the Sheldon family circle, barely willing to hope that he might find a permanent home among these kind people still distracted by grief.Across the street from the Sheldons live an older couple who take Alfred under their wing, and it is they who introduce him to the history of the buffalo soldiers - African-American cavalry troopers whose reputation for integrity, honor, and personal responsibility inspires the child.Before life has a chance to settle down, however, Terry, who has never been unfaithful to Laura, finds himself attracted to the solace offered by another woman. Their encounter, brief as it is, leaves her pregnant with his baby - a child Terry suddenly realizes he urgently wants.From these fitful lives emerges a lyrical and richly textured story, one that explores the meaning of marriage, the bonds between parents and children, and the relationships that cause a community to become a family. But The Buffalo Soldier is also a tale of breathtaking power and profound moral complexity - and exactly the sort of novel readers have come to expect from Chris Bohjalian.


What the Critics Say

"Bohjalian writes honestly and often movingly." (Publishers Weekly)
"Tender...[written] with poetic skill." (Library Journal)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Touching, and Sincere

After reading Bohjalian's Trans-sister Radio, I approached Buffalo Soldier with high expectations. While vastly different in subject matter, this book shares the lyricism, and freshness that creates memorable characters and situations out of everyday life.

We follow Laura and Terry through the loss of their twin daughters, as they move through their grief; fighting to stay together when they are too damaged to continuing loving. And at times, it seems so much easier to cut their losses, and move on.

Particularly touching, is Bohjalian's unromantic depiction of Alfred, a young foster child struggling to create a family of his own, and to win a place in the hearts of two broken, flawed adults.

Written with a sure hand, you will weep, rage, and rant with, (and sometimes, at) the characters. The journey is strong, but the resolution seems strangely too easy- wrongs too easily forgiven, and forgot, though perhaps with all the preceeding turmoil, the characters have earned a break.

The story is well narrated, bringing small-town Vermont and its inhabitants to poignant life.
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- A.W. Nadine

Not Your Typical Triangle

Chris Bohialian likes to explore ethical dilemmas and "The Buffalo Soldier" is another assay into that genre. This time he presents a typical domestic triangle but with some unconventional and unsentimental twists - a black foster child, a pregnant "other woman" defying conventional morality and her unsupportive family and providing the ironic twist in that the female spouse in the triangle has lost twin daughters and cannot have any more children. Added to that these characters seem to feel only mild responsibility for their own actions, only self-aware in a token sort of way of how their behaviors are affecting others. They all seem to have that sense of entitlement, that politically correct concern and empathy for large groups of people but none for individuals. And how appropriate that they end up being saved from the consequences of their actions by another natural disaster. However, the book is interesting, fast-moving and entertaining and full of nuance in all its human interactions. A very deep psychological suspense pervades, equal to the sustained suspense of the most thrilling whodunits. I loved reading it, as I love reading all Bohialian's books, and although I enjoyed hearing about the Buffalo Soldiers from the Civil War, and considered the comparison to Alfred's situation to be a valid one, I did not think the interjection of actual quotations was an essential element and I found the episodic appearance of the deep male voice disorienting. Having said all that, though, I can't wait until he comes up with another one!
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- Pamela Harvey "glam"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-01-2002
  • Publisher: Random House Audio