Liberating Sky by Susan Spence
Growing up in Montana, Sky Daly’s life is close to perfect. Living on the D, the cattle ranch started by her ancestors in the 1880s, she has almost all she could ever want. Her only cause for discontent is her mother, Ursula, who seems determined to make her life miserable.
Once she graduates from high school everything changes. There is no longer a place for her on the ranch. Traditionally girls marry and leave to begin new lives elsewhere. It doesn’t matter that she is the only Daly child who wants to continue the ranching tradition. There is only one way she can see to keep ranching and that includes a trip to California to find the person she thinks can save her.
It is 1968, the height of the hippy movement and when she arrives, she finds herself in the middle of the revolution, surrounded by young people protesting the societal structures she wishes to preserve. The experience changes her life, not only because of the radical thinking she is exposed to, but also because of one particular man she meets.
Will Daniels follows her to Montana. She doesn’t want the hippy around as she’s afraid he’ll get in the way. Plus, she believes he will never fit into her rural lifestyle. She finally gives in to his persistent attention, but continuously reminds herself that he is simply a diversion until her plan comes together.
When tragedy, caused by the lies her parents have been living, tears the Daly family apart, Sky is forced to leave the D and she flees Montana. She moves around from one job to the next, trying to find a new life for herself, but is continuously disappointed as she realizes that being a woman doesn’t give her the same opportunity a man would have. Eventually she forgets about not only her former life, but her dreams as well and settles into a life without expectation or hope.
While waiting tables down in New Mexico, she receives news of a murder that once again turns her life upside down. Returning to Montana, she takes over the ranch, but instead of the idyllic situation she envisioned, the survival of the D is threatened.
While she and Will are researching her great grandfather’s life, she finds out that, although under different circumstances, he was also forced off the D and out of Montana. She discovers the lengths he went to in defending the D. Back in his day, it was cattle rustlers and others attempting to destroy his livelihood and take his land. The threats Sky faces are different but just as deadly. She realizes that, like her great grandfather, she will do whatever it takes to save the family ranch. Whatever it takes.
This isn’t my usual type of read, but as a young girl in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I loved the clothes, hair styles, and music (still do), so I was drawn to the book.
I liked following Sky’s journey and learning about her family history. I thought her and her mom were little harsh with each other, but loved her devotion to the ranch and other family members. I really enjoyed reading her thoughts as she was meeting hippy’s for the first time…they were very funny!
The book has a lot going on, family relationships, tragedies, surprises and more, and I felt many different emotions while I was reading it.
At times Sky came across as a brat, but I thought that just added to the story instead of taking away from it.
All in all I enjoyed reading this book, but I thought it was rather long at 364 pages, and some of the scenes seemed to drag on a bit. I think if it had been shorter, I would have liked it more.
Still, I would recommend this book to anyone who would enjoy the unusual mix of ranch life and hippy life.