Period dramas and historical fiction novels are kindred spirits; Wolf Den Hollow by Donna Murray landed this October, 2020. Because we think you’ll love it, we are giving Willow and Thatch readers a sneak peek at the first two chapters, and holding a giveaway of the book, along with a Sacred Wolf throw blanket.
To help keep this site running: Willow and Thatch may receive a commission when you click on any of the links on our site and make a purchase after doing so.
Donna Murray’s Wolf Den Hollow is based on a true story that is set in the early 1900s, during the peak of the great logging boom in the Southern Missouri Ozarks.
Sila, a young, bewitching Cherokee, flees a marriage to a brutal drunk and finds herself knocking on the door of a mill office, destitute and looking for work. There, she meets the handsome Charley Barkley, the owner and married father of ten. Despite the fact that they have virtually nothing in common—and thirty years between them—a spark ignites.
For Charley, once their passionate love affair intensifies, there is no going back to his loveless marriage—especially after Sila is with child. They marry and his logging empire expands, as does their family. Just as their lives seem perfect, tragedy shatters Sila’s world, and her devastation is compounded by the onset of the Great Depression.
With her inheritance gone, and faced with losing her home, she is forced to do the unthinkable in order to protect herself and her children in a final act of survival.
Wolf Den Hollow is available HERE
Read the first two chapters below. The giveaway is now closed.
Wolf Den Hollow by Donna Murray
I ran through the backwoods like a hunted animal, stumbling and falling along the way. The bitter temperature was unforgiving and my blood ran cold. There was a chance I would not survive, but I would rather die in Mother Nature than by my husband’s brutal hand.
With the first sign of daylight, my weary legs gave out. I lay listening to the fierce wind whipping through the trees and could feel the early burn of frostbite, first the pins and needles and then the numbness setting in. My eyes grew heavy, but I was startled by the cry of the hawk: the messenger.
Large flakes were falling as I got to my feet. I walked blindly through the trees, and my mind was beginning to wander when an old oak called to me. He stood tall and strong, with his many branches laden in white. I curled up against the foot of his trunk, feeling his warmth from within, and I stayed through the night.
By morning, the snow had stopped, leaving a ceiling of dark gray clouds. A cluster of boulders caught my eye, and I bid the old oak goodbye. Walking away, I looked back. “I will never forget you,” I called.
Reaching the boulders, I saw my hunch had been right: there was a cave waiting to be found. The cry of the hawk, and the old oak, had saved my life.
I crept inside without a sound, hoping not to find an unwanted surprise. In the dampness, I could hear the trickle of water. Starting a fire, I breathed a sigh of relief, for I knew I was safe for now. Bats were hanging dormant on the back wall, a good omen from the spirit world. Like the owls, they are guardians of the night and bats symbolize rebirth. I pulled off my mittens and my husband’s old boots. My poor blistered feet were rubbed nearly raw. And I feared my ribs were broken. My husband… I could still taste the blood in my mouth. As my fingers and toes slowly warmed by the fire, the feeling began to come back, paired with the pain from the heartless beating I had taken from him.
After two days and weak from hunger, I bundled up in my old brown frayed winter coat and left the cave to set my small animal trap. It did not take long for a plump rabbit to come along. Releasing him gently, I offered a blessing and thanked him for his life. I skinned his little muscled body and ate his heart. Returning to the cave and kindling my fire, I placed him on a small branch over the open flame. I could smell the burning of his flesh as juices dripped and sizzled on the red-hot coals below. Turning him to a golden brown, I filled my empty belly with his tenderness.
On a calm, clear night, I left the cave to breathe new life. Familiar sounds began to come back: the cry of the wolf, the wings of the night hunter, the creaking noises of the tall trees above.
Walking a few miles, I heard the sound of rushing water. Coming to the river, I saw that it moved fast and strong. I had to wait until daybreak, in hopes of seeing a bridge to cross. But when morning came, one could not be found. My choices were to turn back, knowing my husband was sure to be tracking me, or dare to cross.
Weighing my chances, I jumped into the icy water that nearly sucked my breath out. When I reached the middle and deepest part, the river bottom dropped out from under me. The water heaved and churned, tossing me to the surface and back under again. I fought for air every chance I got, but the river showed no mercy as it carried me downstream. I was on my way to my watery grave when a huge rock stopped me.
Weak and beaten, I managed to land on the snow-covered bank, coughing and heaving violently. Coming to my senses, I thought how foolish I had been.
I crawled to some nearby pines to find shelter from the new snow beginning to fall. The wind cut through my water-soaked clothes, and my body shook down to the bone. I tried to start a fire, but it quickly died. When I tried to pull my boots off, I found them stuck to my feet—the water inside my boots had frozen.
A wave of despair swept over me… and then the fire sparked. Flames ignited and brought with them an intense heat. In the fire, where I held my gaze, I saw an elder with long white hair. His face was weathered and his skin brown. I was not afraid, for I knew my grandfather’s great medicine spirit, and his eyes of timeless wisdom locked deeply into mine. As I reached out my hand toward him, his vision faded, yet he had brought me warmth and a powerful reminder that I belonged to the People of the Fire, who were strong and brave and proud.
Our people, many years back, had marched thousands of miles in the dead of winter on the Trail of Tears. They wore no shoes, with little clothing on their backs, and were starved and plagued with smallpox—the white man’s disease. I thought of the many who fell to their death, and the ones who survived.
The heat of the fire pierced through my skin, bringing my body back to life and then sending me into deep slumber. When I awakened, the fire burned bright. The snowfall had stopped, the air was still, and the stars had come out. My feet no longer pained me, and I could walk, once again, into the night.
The following day, I came across a mountain cave and entered with a watchful eye, making sure a hibernating bear had not found it first. When I discovered I was alone, I built a fire—the one thing that animals feared.
For seven days and nights, I kept the fire burning with ample dry wood, and I found food to be caught. When my tender ribs began to heal, I collected my things and thanked my spirit guides.
“I hear your voices in the wind. I feel your presence all around. I am grateful for the food and warmth you have given me,” I told them.
Walking toward the winter sun, I heard the roaring sound of Bryant Creek, a main watershed up ahead. When it came into view, I realized I had never seen a river so big and powerful. It carried large logs like sticks of kindling and was much too dangerous to cross. I walked along the river for a couple of miles; then I came to a low-water bridge.
The boards were slippery and swayed back and forth as I held on for dear life. The river raged below, sending sprays of water that drenched my skin. When I reached the end, I was thankful to put my feet back on the ground. Climbing the muddy bank, I had a feeling that the worst of my journey was over. And I did not have to worry about my husband Caleb for a while, for I knew that if he was still on my trail, he would never get his stubborn mule to cross the bridge.
I saw homesteads nestled among the pines. There was bound to be a small town nearby. I came across a rustic cabin that looked to be abandoned, and I waited until nightfall, when it remained dark and quiet. I walked to the backside and peered through the windows. Forcing the back door open, I stepped inside.
A few things had been left behind, but clearly, no one still lived in the place. I settled in, finding wood in the barn to keep the fire going. After setting my small animal trap, I pulled an old mattress near the open hearth. Wrapped in a thin patch- work quilt, I fell fast asleep as soon as I closed my eyes.
Caught in a blizzard, a massive four-legged animal plodded toward me in a slow and steady gait. His hooves dug deep, pounding the earth beneath him, with icicles clinging to his thick wooly pelt. Billows of white steamed from his nostrils as he grunted along. He carried a musty smell that grew stronger as he neared. I sat, gripped, unable to move, until he shadowed my smallness.
“Where have you come from, great white buffalo?” I asked, unafraid, while looking deeply into his soulful black eyes.
He leaned his head down with a gentle nudge… a nudge that awakened me.
At my morning fire, I looked into the flames, reliving my powerful dream, still feeling the warm moistness of his breath and smelling the lingering scent of his winter coat. I now knew that the sacred white buffalo was watching over me, as was my grandfather’s great medicine spirit, and that these two had led me through the dark and into safety.
Wolf Den Hollow is available HERE
The book and throw blanket bundle giveaway ended November 9. The giveaway is now closed. Open to US only, age 18 and older. Enter on the Willow and Thatch Facebook page, link below as soon as the giveaway is live. Winner announced on on Facebook Tuesday November 10. (If you don’t have a Facebook account, please email us with a note saying why you’d like to win and we will email you if you win.)
One Willow and Thatch reader will win a copy of Wolf Den Hollow by Donna Murray, and a Sacred Wolf throw blanket to cozy up in. We reserve the right to make a substitution if the throw is no longer available at the close of the giveaway.
Enter the Giveaway at: https://www.facebook.com/perioddramas/posts/1753877498100510
After living in Bali, Indonesia, where she designed and manufacturing garments, Donna Murray relocated back to San Francisco. She worked with the San Francisco Ballet on their Opening Night Gala in 2010, and when she left the event that rainy evening, she stepped into a deep pothole―and broke both her feet. With months of recuperation ahead, she embraced the opportunity to write her first novel; Wolf Den Hollow. Donna has a passion for the arts and culture, travel, nature, food and wine, and living the good life in the beautiful Napa Valley. Learn more about Donna Murray at donnajmurray.com.
If you enjoyed this post, wander over to The Period Films List. You’ll especially like the Edwardian Era list.