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Billy Bartell has languished in a Montana prison cell ten years into a life sentence for a murder committed in 1939 defending wild mustangs. Now, at age 27, he has become a seasoned inmate without hope of parole and no means of protecting feral herds still being ravished by man. Recently, Billy’s warden has awarded the veteran horse whisperer ‘Model Prisoner’ status and bestowed the management of the prison’s fledgling horse rescue program. This first-of-its-kind prisoner rehabilitation program offers an opportunity to save horses but not enough freedom to stop the mass extermination carried out by Billy’s former nemeses, Captain Leonard Belial. Then, a fateful day arrives when the warden permits Billy to attend a funeral of a mutual friend. Lifers are never given such indulgences but the warden makes an exception for his favorite prisoner, putting his job on the line. Once outside prison walls, Billy discovers his ex-lover’s eleven-year-old child, Samantha, is living with the girl’s widowed aunt on an Oregon cattle ranch. The ranch has fallen into receivership and needs an experienced drover to help turn it around. With this news, Billy is torn between returning to prison, thereby fulfilling his promise to the warden, or fleeing to Beaty Butte, Oregon and parenting the little girl. Thus, Billy has to make a life-altering choice (a left turn or a right turn on a country road), requiring the telling of two parallel stories….

Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 6 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 7.50 out of 10


Plot: Beaty Butte, a sequel that effectively stands alone, is a hopeful, engagingly developed story, and one that will likely move many readers, particularly those who love horses. The story offers a rich and compelling premise, though the novel may be strengthened further if the divergent plot lines were better harmonized.

Prose/Style: Anderson's prose is serviceable, but fails to move the plot along with any urgency. Though written clearly, the substantial detail in the text can add unnecessary weight to the story rather than enriching it.

Originality: Anderson elevates the historical fiction genre through the deployment of two separate narratives, indicated by left and right chapter headings, though the success of this strategy is inconsistent.

Character Development: Billy Bartell is an intriguing character whose circumstances afford the story much of its power and depth. Samantha's confident, sassy demeanor is a welcome juxtaposition to Billy and is worthy of a bit more shine.

Date Submitted: May 10, 2020

Online Book Club

Beaty Butte by David Martin Anderson is a profound story based on the ancient Crow Indian belief that a person lives many alternate lives in the same timeline based on the decisions they make.

In 1939 Billy was only seventeen when he was faced with his first major life-altering decision: He killed an evil man. He was not a bad person. The murderous feat was provoked by the insane and unnecessary killing of wild mustangs and his desire to keep alive the last remaining herd on Pryor Mountain.

Ten years later, Billy was faced with another fork in the road after being granted two days of secret leave by the Warden to attend a mutual friend’s funeral. If he turned right in the road, he would head back to prison and try to help his fellow inmates turn their lives around with the wild horse rescue program. If he turned left, he could escape Montana State Penitentiary and flee to Oregon to find the daughter of his long lost love.

The author perfectly blended three alternate realities into one superbly striking story. Written with a first-person perspective, it is impossible not to fall completely in love with the main protagonist. Not to mention the magnificently fleshed out supporting characters. The reader gets the opportunity to see three different endings to three different stories. All three endings of this book left me feeling satisfied, crying happy tears, and sporting delighted goosebumps. Anderson did not hold back on this exquisite piece of literature.

There is absolutely nothing I disliked about this book, and so much I loved. Even though the book is fictional, it does a wonderful job of seeming quite realistic. I was coerced by the descriptive landscapes and mountains and ended up doing a little googling of my own. There is a real Beaty Butte Wild Horse Training Facility that tames the wild horses in the 437,120-acre area, and eventually allows adoption and homing of these extraordinary creatures. This book is dedicated to the volunteers of this awesome program.

With minimal borderline profanity and only mild suggestion of a sexual nature, this book is safe for readers as young as 12 to enjoy. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves reading about horses, friendship, love, fighting for what you feel is right and of course the mysterious possibility of having alternate realities. I won’t recommend it to readers younger than 12 as it contains some violence. If you do not enjoy reading about ranches and the cowboy lifestyle or feel offended when reading about Indian Tribal rituals, I would suggest you steer clear of this novel.

I almost instantly knew that I would give this book a perfect 4 out of 4 stars. It is impeccably edited, and I had to search to find any errors. I look forward to reading more books by this gifted author.