~ Soda Springs Reader Reviews ~

Independent perspectives on Soda Springs. Read on!

Review: My visit to Soda Springs
My recent visit to Soda Springs was a delight! Through Terry Marshall’s characters, I was reminded of how racial hatred can be manifested in most communities—often with a lack of awareness that is maddening.

While Soda Springs is a fictional Colorado community, it’s cleavages are reinforced by racial “understandings” and language that differ little from what Rick Sanders gets a taste of during a brief visit to Alabama during the early 1960’s. Rick is Marshall’s main character, a Cornell University senior whose family needs him home, at least for the summer.

As we follow Rick’s “coming of age” in Soda Springs, Marshall masterfully leads us from one sexual encounter to another with all the awkwardness, naiveté, and youthful desire that has challenged past generations. All of this develops within a skillfully constructed context wherein two pillars of most communities—high school football and local churches—become intertwined in some surprising ways.

As the sexual mores and behaviors of both adults and other youth in the community unfold in a series of escapades, we can’t help but wonder who will gain Rick’s final commitment. And how will the latent conflicts be resolved as things also heat up there. This is one I had a hard time putting down until the last page was turned.

A toot to enjoy; a treasure to ponder; a useful springboard for some serious discussion of several topics ranging from the language of hate, strategies for community change, expectations about love, sex, and marriage; inherent complexities in immigration reform; and the economic realities of poverty and their costs for the poor. A must read!

Thomas E. Drabek, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, University of Denver

Review: A Wonderfully Told and Interesting Story!

Soda Springs explores social injustice in the 1960s

Messages from the past

Soda Springs might be a rather intimidating hefty tome, but it’s filled with a fascinating story. Soda Springs provides an insightful and authentic look at life in the 1960s and the introduction of the Civil Rights Movement to all areas of life, including small towns in America.

Rick Sanders, our main character, sets out to do some good in the world, having been shocked by the racism and negativity of many around him. He learns that racism exists not just against black people, but also among Hispanics and a variety of other different groups of people. I found Rick to be a really interesting character that I enjoyed following throughout this story. Marshall has a great gift for storytelling and really kept me engaged in all of the characters that he created.

Soda Springs is an enlightening, entertaining, and truly fascinating book that explores so many areas of social injustice and the transformative nature of America in the 1960s. I highly recommend this one to anyone interested in these areas.

By Jordan, March 6, 2018, Amazon Review

A Soda Springs review: It offers hope for acceptance and tolerance
I’m not a book “critic.” I read a lot — best sellers, beach books, junk, fiction, nonfiction, etc. and I don’t always agree with what the “critics” say. If a book evokes something in me — good or bad – either I like or don’t.

I must say that after the first chapter of Soda Springs, I didn’t think I was going to like it — not after that liaison between Rick and his friend’s mother. But I kept reading. Once I got going, I became engrossed.

I grew up in the place Marshall calls the “Sangre de Cristo Valley.” I could relate to the setting – the real towns, Alamosa and Monte Vista; the Sky Hi stampede; picking lettuce and raising potatoes, etc. He captures them well.

He also shows us the discrimination we experienced growing up there. I think all Hispanics felt the sting of prejudice at one time or another — some more than others, but it was always there; maybe not blatant, but under the surface. In high school, I think I knew my place and didn’t rock the boat and probably had my head buried in the sand, but I knew it existed.

After college, I didn’t get two teaching jobs I applied for, and I’m pretty sure it was because I’m Hispanic. I ended up leaving Colorado . . . and the good news is, things worked out well for me in the end.

On another note, Marshall has the language down pat in Soda Springs: the idioms, the dichos, the expressions. I’m impressed. Pretty good for a “gringo”!

I know the book is called “Love, Sex, and Civil Rights,” and that sex sells. Poor Rick, his hormones are raging and he “lusts” after 3 women — loves all of them. As I thought about it, though, that was normal for that time period — all time periods, I guess. Still, this may just be part of my Catholic upbringing, but I think the sex could have been more subtle and not so explicit.

Interestingly enough, though, by the time I got to the end, all that seemed a minor problem.

What I especially like about Soda Springs is that of all the women, Rick chooses Concha in the end. It gives hope that discrimination can be overcome, that there is hope for assimilation and integration of the cultures, for acceptance and tolerance — despite family tensions that will have to be overcome.

All in all, I liked this book. Let me know when your next one comes out; I promise to buy it and read it.

by Patricia Gonzales Sacoman

Contest judge: "a well-told story . . . great dialog"
(Soda Springs) is a well-told story revealing a different side of racial prejudice in the sixties and inviting questions of the present. Great dialog, powerfully evocative sexual tension, interesting characters and plot. — Sheila Deeth, Global eBook Awards judge

In the sixties I was an English schoolgirl wondering why North America and South Africa seemed to think people’s skin color made so much more difference than hair color.

Terry Marshall’s Soda Springs brings that difference to life — not just black and white skin in Birmingham Alabama, but brown and white in Soda Springs, Colorado. There are revolutions all round, and the sexual revolution too — country girls not sure about losing their cherry, college boy like a boy-scout, always prepared, a host of old rules broken while the rules that keep people down are kept in place.

Rick, from Soda Springs, and Charlie, from Birmingham, are college room-mates at Cornell, visiting Charlie’s family to write a report in their college newspaper. Charlie’s Mom’s not prejudiced — she really trusts her black cleaner. Charlie’s Dad’s just overworked because outsiders keep stirring up trouble. And Rick — he’s just a not-quite innocent abroad, falling into politics and temptation with equal abandon, pathos and amusing mishaps.

Meanwhile, there’s the prom? — another thing I didn’t understand about, growing up in England. And there’s all those people (none black) back in Soda Springs who really aren’t prejudiced either; they just don’t trust “lettuce-pickers.”

The voice is just right, the dialog as sure as one of those movies that first taught me about this foreign world, the teenaged sexual tension as powerful, sad and real as the racial tension it mirrors.

The ugliness of racism is balanced with hope and youth. The wide stage of history is balanced with family tragedy. And the struggle for freedom is balanced nicely with the struggle for a woman’s love.

The well-nuanced voice of the writing is nicely illustrated with Chuck Asay’s illustrations which, while initially seeming unlikely in a literary novel, soon become a valued part of the reading — a place to stop and say “Yes, that is how it looks,” or “I wonder,” only later finding out.

For those who wonder how it was, those who wonder how much or how little things have changed, or those who simply want to read an enjoyable, literary, sensual and sensitive novel, Soda Springs is a highly recommended adult and young-adult novel. — Sheila Deeth (published in www.gather.com)

Reliving a time and place in history
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Soda Springs. It brought back memories of the times we were in during the civil rights days of the 60s, but I hadn’t focused on the Hispanic side of the fight for civil rights.

The characters are vivid and the atmosphere of a small town surrounded by potato, alfalfa, lettuce and barley farms presents a compelling sense of place. I felt like I was there as Rick Sanders struggled with keeping his fields irrigated (the old fashioned way using siphon tubes).

I also relived the feeling of young love and discovery. The “steamy” scenes make the book a fun read!

But most important, Soda Springs makes you “think” about the human issues that defined the 60s and, unfortunately, are still present today in some respects.

by Paula Austin
(Aiken, SC)

Pick Up Soda Springs, Settle In, Love the Characters, Experience "Soda Springs"... then Ask More Questions
Grab a cup of warm something, find a comfy chair, and settle into “Soda Springs.” Rick, Ginny Sue, Concha, Lupe, Buck Bennett, and other great characters will come into your life, stay awhile, and then surreptitiously lead you to events that will change your thinking…forever.

Rick, a young farm boy has been away in college back east for three years and ‘is called home’ when his father is hurt in a farming accident and can’t work. Rick reluctantly travels home. His curious nature and studies in the college classroom lead him home by way of Birmingham, Alabama. He sees first-hand the issues in the South circa 1963 then arrives to his hometown of Soda Springs.

Rick begins to see the values of his conservative, ‘white’ upbringing challenged in a very real way. We are able to feel the emotions of discrimination, anger, sadness, but also the celebrations and victories of another oppressed people at a time when we thought ‘it’ (the ugliness of discrimination) was only happening in the South.

We will ask ourselves many questions as we close the book to “Soda Springs.” One of our biggest questions might be: have times, attitudes, prejudices really changed much over the past half century?

by Carey
(Superior, CO)

Fiction hits home more than fact!
This is an EXCELLENT read. Having come of age in a community that was over 50% Mexican-American, sadly I was able to see how accurate the author is about the prejudices that existed in my community. Books like this have to result in a lot of soul-searching for those of us who, even inadvertently, contributed to such divisiveness.

What more can I say?

I usually don’t read, or enjoy fiction, but in this instance I think that the author comes closer to the truth that existed (hopefully the past tense is correct!) in communities such as that described than would a non-fiction history.

In short, a thought-provoking book that I whole-heartedly recommend, especially to those who “came of age” in communities with diverse cultural heritages.

As an after thought, the “love and sex” quite accurately portrays not only the “coming of age” stresses but the response of truly caring adults. It ALL fits in!

by Dave Dawson
(Port William, Scotland)

Social change is messy. So is growing up!
Colorado author Terry Marshall earned his PhD in Rural Sociology from Cornell University and has been a Head Start director, activist and protestor – winning a full-time organizing fellowship from the Robert F Kennedy Memorial and the title of ‘Rural Colorado’s hometown revolutionary’ by the Denver Post. In addition to publishing three books Terry has been a reporter, editor and freelance writer. Outside of Colorado he studied in Mexico, Spain, Peru leading to his text on how to learn unwritten foreign languages.

Originally published in 2010, SODA SPRINGS: LOVE, SEX, AND CIVIL RIGHTS is equally poignant in 2018 as it becomes available in the now au courante Kindle version. The history of the book is a fine description of life in the 60s – free love, poverty, racism, protest and all – but the significance of this award-winning novel is even more worthy of reading at this time when racism, dreamers, immigration, violence, gender freedom, fake news, and a government that feels far more disruptive than the little town of Soda Springs, Colorado.

Terry’s synopsis from the book is a better overview than a reader could create: ‘Soda Springs is the forgotten story of America’s turbulent civil rights years: the fictional world of a small farm town fragmented by the Mexican-American struggle to combat decades of racism. Soda Springs confronts those topics your mother told you to steer clear of in polite company: sex . . . religion . . . politics . . . racial conflict. April 1963. College senior Rick Sanders commits himself to Martin Luther King’s civil rights campaign in Birmingham, Alabama. But when Rick’s father rolls his tractor, Rick begrudgingly returns to Soda Springs, Colorado, to run the family farm. He vows to make the best of it: he will enlighten the hometown folks with Dr. King’s message. Rick discovers a town in the throes of a failing economy, and himself in the cross hairs of warring factions embroiled in bare-knuckle politics. He finds a soul mate in his struggle to right a world of racism, discrimination, and violence. His reward: shattered dreams, sex, rejection, and finally, love.’

The novel sparkles with Terry’s inimitable style of recall and storytelling and the book is enhanced by drawings by Chuck Asay. It is simply a splendid novel – one with staying power and a book that should be read by everyone who cares about the major issues we confront daily.

Highly Recommended.

— Grady Harp, Amazon. com,

A book filled with humor and a ‘tinge’ of the hippy generation
Back in the ‘60s the news was all about race riots and marches. This story brought back memories of my own college days when I began to question the beliefs I was taught.

Soda Springs is about a young man in conflict with his parents, neighbors, and the “powers that be” in the small town where his parents farm.

Rick has the typical high ideals of youth, along with the reality of inexperience in love and sex. He fumbles through these ‘coming of age’ events that crisscross in life. He has a need to see justice at work in Soda Springs. He experiences love with two young women, one Mexican and the other the daughter of the farmer next door. This all comes together as he recognizes the need for courage in the face of bigotry.

The book is filled with humor and the ‘tinge’ of the hippy generation. 

— Jan Sunderland, Petersburg, ND

Eye Opener
Any preconceptions I had of the story line in Soda Springs was immediately erased as I turned the pages. It becomes clear that the prejudices of the deep south are found in other places with other peoples and other nationalities.

The book has a great story line. It keeps you reading to find out how it is going to develop — both the rites of spring and the rights of people.

Soda Springs opened my eyes to the early 1960s as never opened before and made me realize that some things taken for granted as you grow up are not really what they seemed at the time.

Soda Springs is a very good read. I found it hard to put down.

Thank you, Terry Marshall, for a wonderful story with real people.

by Don C
(Albuquerque, NM, USA)

Great Book: Terry brings back hometown memories!
Soda Springs was a look back in my lifetime in a small town that is strangely similar to the town in this book — especially the small town attitudes of bigotry, and the race differences on both sides of the fence.

The novel make me laugh at the way things used to be and yet wish that it might be the same today.

Terry Marshall is a great writer. I hope his book goes the distance. It is a great read.

by Peggy McDaniel
(Seattle, WA)

Grow Up!
Soda Springs is an engaging novel that can be enjoyed on many different levels. Pick one or experience them all: relive your own “coming of age” challenges; recall your own struggles with your moral – and political – development; reflect on the role of your own religion in your life; or simply savor great writing and great storytelling about some people you would love sit down with to share your life views.

For me, being transported back to 1963 evoked myriad emotions of that very confusing time. The folks in Soda Springs could have been my family members, my friends, and the families of my friends. Not that their backgrounds were identical, but the human issues being confronted were and are universal and timeless. The civil rights issues could have been those of the competing religious and cultural groups of the country I was living in at the time. The people depicted are compelling, not extreme or melodramatic caricatures.

The big issues of the day, while not necessarily solved or resolved, are all there: civil rights, war (Viet Nam), religion, moral conflicts. All are approached believably by a cast of characters that one can both relate to and care about. Particularly easy to identify with, as well as perfectly portrayed, were the conflicts for the girls: Ginny Sue, Karen, and Concha – whether it was their relationships with their parents, boyfriends, or peers. Their conversations rang true – especially for the time. The challenges of the parents and their roles as parents and/or professionals are not unlike those faced by parents today.

After completing the book, I felt I had actually spent time in Soda Springs, that I knew these people, and that I wanted to talk to them about their experiences and compare our life journeys. And, yes, I was so captivated by people in the book that I actually became annoyed about some of their actions and decisions and wanted to have words with them! I just wanted to tell Rick to grow up! And then it dawned on me — that’s what Soda Springs is all about!

by DHS
(Las Vegas, NV)

A novel to be read, digested and read again
I re-read Soda Springs, this time slowly and where people could see what I was reading. This novel is one that should be read, digested and read again. I love it when people ask questions.

Sylvia Lobato, Valley Courier
Alamosa, Colorado

A must read
With the royal wedding over with and Barack Obama’s birth certificate released, I decided to visit Soda Springs.

I picked up Terry Marshall’s novel, Soda Springs, Love, Sex and Civil Rights, expecting to relive some old memories; I left it with eyes wide open.

Unlike many novelists seeking to portray a particular time in the nation’s struggle for equality, Marshall adds unique layers to his work. Even a chance contact with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is portrayed in an unusual way.

Probably the knowledge that Marshall is a “home town boy” from Center led to some expectations, and they were fulfilled, as the fictional Rick Sanders eventually fulfilled his dreams.

Soda Springs is an imaginary farm town where the community remains divided and at war with its own people, while the citizenry struggle to make ends meet, stay afloat, get an education and raise families in a place where there seems to be no way out.

The book is illustrated by Alamosa native and nationally renowned political cartoonist Chuck Asay, whose Christian conservative views make one wonder how he so accurately depicted life in Soda Springs.

A map drawn of the Soda Springs area leaves no doubt that it is in the San Luis, oops! Sangre de Cristo Valley. Alamosa is there, so are Hooper, South Fork, Del Norte, Monte Vista and… Soda Springs, right where Center ought to be. Even the sand dunes are there, though the names of La Veta Pass and Zapata Falls have been changed.

Marshall explains that he has taken these liberties with places in his novel to ensure that no one sees it as autobiographical. The people are fictional – all except Dr. King, whom Rick Sanders meets in Alabama.

He and college roommate Charlie McPherson essentially set out to experience the civil rights struggle in the south, where Charlie was raised. It was 1963, the year of Dr. King’s Birmingham marches and his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Rick learns some intimate lessons from his roommate’s mother and, eventually, some hard ones from his police officer father, then makes his way back out into an inhospitable world.

Immersed in the collegiate classroom and his commitment to Dr. King’s crusade, Rick gets word that his dad has been badly hurt in a farming accident and he must return to Soda Springs.

He does, but with a new set of eyes, opened by what he has seen in a place where there were three restrooms, men, women and blacks.

The book takes its reader to Soda Springs and introduces its people, based on the way each person views life in the small town and the valley area in general.

Marshall allows his reader to view Soda Springs through the eyes of those people, adding layers to a story that could have been a one-sided, bland tale, a coming-of-age novel about a college kid coming home, the “great white hope,” a small-town savior.

The book’s a page-turner, hard to put down, and even harder for one who lived in the San Luis Valley during the long, hot summers of protest, working for civil rights and picketing the lettuce fields.

Easily recognizable are the White House, now just a memory and a place for the people created in an old Studebaker garage. It’s not La Frontera, now Center Head Start, Marshall swears, just as the Sanders place is not Marshall produce.

Deftly painting a picture of life in Soda Springs, Marshall brings his characters to life, painting the nuances of relationships, the way the people think and speak, the old guard that believes prejudice and discrimination are acceptable, the people who loudly maintain it must end, the preacher’s wife, the coach, the teenaged Rick Sanders, the virginal Ginny Sue, the frustrated and disabled dad, corrupt and racist police, the town government and a simmering cauldron of social change that eventually boils over into violence.

We climb with Marshall up the town water tower where someone has painted “Ya Basta!” “Enough is enough,” warning the people of Soda Springs that things must change.

For anyone living in the San Luis Valley, this book is a must-read; for those who remember the passionate days of the 1960s, it’s an awakening to the fact that some things may have changed, but not necessarily for the better.

From “Native writes” — a column in The Valley Courier, Alamosa, Colorado
By Sylvia Lobato

A book to read and pass on
Soda Springs invited me into a community where the people quickly came to life. The story was engaging and kept me guessing until the end, and past. This book is one to read and then pass on. Many an interesting conversation was started while I was reading it. I don’t remember the sixties, but my parents began telling me stories they hadn’t before. The 20 year olds had me reading more on the subject just so I could explain what was happening at the time. Read this book and start talking.

Domino Law, Amazon.com

The descriptions in the book were remarkably vivid.
This was a great story!

I was intrigued to read a book about civil rights in a different place and with people I hadn’t previously realized as struggling with civil rights.

The descriptions in the book were remarkably vivid. Soda Springs quickly became a town I cared about and Rick and Ginny were real people I was fascinated to know.

A part of history I hadn’t realized I was interested in until I couldn’t put it down. When I got to the end, I actually turned a page or two back to make sure I hadn’t missed something, I didn’t want it to be over.

Fabulous book! I highly recommend it.

M.B. Cecil, Amazon, com

It brings back the slow-paced life of the 50's and 60's
I so enjoy it when I get into a book and find it’s a page-turner. I could not put down Terry Marshall’s Soda Springs.

Development of the characters and the lucid descriptions of their personalities caught my interest immediately and held it throughout the book. The creative illustrations enhanced the characters in my mind, and at some point I realized I did not want the book to end.

Most of us can recall our “coming of age” experiences during high school and college years, the recognition of their parent’s values and mores and remember the expectations and social restraints represented by our parents and community. This novel stimulated me to reminisce about all these, and more, in my own life. I found myself recalling the quiet, comfortable and slow-paced life of the 50’s and 60’s, so different from our world today. Our scratchy, black and white TV news showed sit-ins and protests in the southern U.S. each evening. I thought that was “a world away.”

Soda Springs made me realize that social injustices take many forms and in fact they occurred in my own community. Hypocrisy may not be seen when “blinders are in place.” I was in suspense about how the main character was going to deal with social injustices in his community until the final pages of the book.

I hope there is a sequel.

Chuck Drabek, Amazon.com

Soda Springs illustrations win Global eBook Awards contest
Good news for Soda Springs: Love, Sex, and Civil Rights! And for illustrator Chuck Asay!

Global Ebook AwardThe Soda Springs electronic edition won first prize for illustrations in a fiction book in Dan Poynter’s “Global eBook Awards” competition.

The novel itself was a finalist in both the multicultural literature and teen literature categories . . . though not, alas, the winner.

Poynter is one of the gurus of self-publishing, the author of 127 books, and an acclaimed international speaker on publishing. He established the Global eBook Awards competition this year.

“Everyone is talking about eBooks,” Poynter said. “eBooks have reached the tipping point and are outselling books on paper in several categories. eBook are not replacing paper books; they are in addition to. The eReading devices such as the Kindle are increasing the amount of book reading.”

According to Joseph Dowdy, the Director of Awards, this year’s competition demonstrated the power of ebooks to bring new voices to the world of literature. “We congratulate all the winners, finalists and nominated entries and we wish them all continued success as others discover their talent and value their work,” Dowdy said.

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