by John Earl Sharp
Against the intricate backdrop that John Earl Sharp re-creates, we follow post Civil War families into the Piney Woods of East Texas.
Many families have suffered greatly as this is a hard land where law-abiding citizens reside alongside Indians and outlaws.
Sharp begins this incredible panoramic tale at the creek with children Neddy, Pete, and Samuel Pound. They are sitting on a fallen tree, hunting crawfish, but soon after, will unite with Clementine and Jackie Carver, and then all 5 children will begin a mission to solve the mystery of a missing person.
Meanwhile, the protagonist, Vernon is awaiting his Bounty and circumstances lead him to protect Sky, a Chickasaw woman, from the wealthiest man in the county. Vernon's action, although considerate, makes departure a necessity.
What happens thereafter is we are guided to smoke-filled saloons where unpredictable men walk through swinging doors carrying Smith and Wesson's. These men leave behind lifeless bodies in puddles of blood. Here, we find that the rhythms of daily life intertwine with dreams of the big reward of gold, and the smell of privies and dirty tributaries are replaced with the memory of clean linen and freshly baked pies.
On their journey, the children meet up with the others. If all are fortunate, they will go home to cabins, where they are surrounded by warmth and companionship, and where death is symbolized only by papers pressed in the family Bible.
Against the odds, in this desolate place, suited only for 'Armed Men and Armadillos', one often looks back with a jar in hand and says, 'better luck tomorrow'.
In closing, I was immediately invested in the mix of characters and scenery and love that the author further lured me in by referencing recognizable names. I found this to be a captivating story of the intricacies of the old west created by a gifted writer of evocative prose.
This book was provided by the generosity of the author for an honest review.