6 October 2023

by Lori Windows
Published by Endless Sky Books
Review by Toby A. Welch
$24.99 ISBN 9781989398760

I haven’t read a western in years and now I’m wondering why. Simiakia has drawn me back into the genre with gusto!

The title of this book initially confused me. What the heck is a simiakia? A cross between a Siamese cat and a Kia Sportage? Nope. For the Indigenous Nez Perce people, it means a belief in themselves, denoting manhood and pride. In this book, it’s also the name of a long-deceased horse that became a symbolic totem. 

The cover of Simiakia threw me back to my days as a kid when my dad left Louis L’Amour books lying around the house. The covers of those classic westerns hinted at what was to come when you cracked open the book. This cover did the same with a boy on a horse, his trusty dog, and a First Nations warrior. I knew before starting chapter one that I was diving into a modern western. 

This book starts out in the late 1950s but quickly jumps to 1986. Al, a teenager on a downward path, gets a job at a ranch that he initially tried to steal from. The ranch owner, Celia, gives him a second chance while she is busy with Morgan, a man she is in an interesting relationship with. Al tries to reconnect with his Nez Perce heritage as the rest of the characters are busy navigating their own lives.

Lori Windows writes in such a beautifully detailed way without being flowery. She smoothly includes all those little tidbits that round out a story and add depth to what you are reading. For example: “Al held up his hand. It was no longer the hand of a pool player. He had calluses, and one nail was blackened. There was dirt ground into the creases of his skin that the strongest of soaps wouldn’t wash out.” Great stuff!

There were two women in the book that I immediately identified with – Celia and Sybil. I would love to have real life versions of them in my circle. When they met at Macy’s, a diner, I wished I could join them in their booth. Characters such as these two stay with you long after you finish reading this book.

I am a sucker for books with dogs and Simiakia was no exception. Cantar is a lovable cross between a coyote and an Airedale. When she gets a boyfriend who licks her adoringly, I gave a silent cheer. Even the pups in novels deserve love!

Coming in at over three hundred pages with relatively small font, Windows had enough runway to craft a layered story with well-developed characters and she succeeded. I recommend Simiakia to anyone who is already a fan of engrossing westerns as well as those trying out the genre for the first time. 


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