Pages: 296 pages
Finished: Apr. 22, 2010
First Published: 2006
Publisher: SOHO Press
Genre: Historical fiction, Western
Oscar Ruiz, born in Mexico, came to Texas when he was fourteen.
Acquired: Received a review copy from the author.
Reason for Reading: I love reading about the time period and the subject matter.
This is an epic drama of settlers struggling to settle in Texas during the years 1840 to 1854. What makes this book stand out from the rest is the characters. Rather than the usual group of white European settlers Vida has cast her tale with peoples who make an unusual yet enthralling story. Each having their own story, until they come together as a group of settlers, are a Polish Jew, an Alsace German, a runaway slave, a paid for slave family, a Mexican woman who may be a witch and her half white daughter. This group of people join and grow together in an emotionally strong bond and face the brutality of the Comanches, Rangers, weather and racism.
I was truly hooked with this book from the first chapter. Each character is introduced separately before becoming part of the group and while the story is told in the third person we are shown the story from various character's perceptions along the way. This is one of the most amazing group of settlers I have read about and I appreciate the insight into the story of the peoples often overlooked in telling of the settling of Texas. Character was everything for me in this book. I felt as if I knew them and certain events were emotionally disturbing because of that.
The plot itself is tremendous. What starts out as one man's journey, and a selfish man at that, turns into an almost Christian allegory of the downtrodden following the Jew believing he will save them and lead them home. He does ... partially, but he is *not* the Saviour. Instead it becomes a voyage of many souls and it is the weak and downtrodden that bring the selfishness out of the man, though unbeknownst to him, and very slowly, by the end of the book, he has been changed, just enough, by the events of his journey and by the people who love him, those whom he met along that journey. I could not put this book down! I even read at the table! Ultimately, a fierce new version of the Western with a bittersweet ending.