by Robert Olmstead
Publishers Weekly In his seventh novel, Olmstead (Coal Black Horse) delivers another richly characterized, tightly woven story of nature, inevitability and the human condition. In 1916, the aging Napoleon Childs assembles a cavalry to search for the elusive bandit Pancho Villa in Mexico. The ragtag group includes Napoleon's brother, Xenophon, and "America's eager export of losers, deadbeats, cutthroats, dilettantes, and murderers." Riding on horseback for months at a time, Napoleon finds himself and his men always just a few hours behind Villa, whose posse navigates the unforgiving terrain with ease. When a band of marauders descend upon the group, many of Napoleon's men are brutally slaughtered and Napoleon himself is left beaten and emotionally broken. After the attack, Napoleon proclaims to his brother that the person he was died out there. But this revelation doesn't last long, and soon Napoleon sets out on yet another date with destiny on the open plains with his followers. Reminiscent of Kent Haruf, Olmstead's brilliantly expressive, condensed tale of resilience and dusty determination flows with the kind of literary cadence few writers have mastered. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal Olmstead's seventh novel (after the award-winning Coal Black Horse) employs a sparse, poetic style that is appropriate for the book's bleak setting and subject matter. Set in the Mexican desert in 1916, the novel follows Napoleon Childs, a veteran soldier in the American Expeditionary Force sent to capture Pancho Villa. The futility of this mission is compounded by unendurable conditions and the pointless violence of the war. The novel revolves around an expedition to collect livestock, the grisly battle that ensues, and Childs's improbable struggle for survival. His attempts to make sense of this experience and of his life spent in the army are portrayed powerfully and subtly, and his conclusion that he has died and been reborn presages the death of the 19th-century world with the arrival of World War I. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Douglas Southard, CRA International, Inc., Boston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list This relatively short novel packs a potent emotional wallop. It takes place in the Mexican desert during the 1916 buildup to World War I. The spare, often poetic prose conveys the raw violence, brutality, and quixotic actions of people at war. More than a slice of life but less than an epic, the tale centers on the leadership and (through flashback and dreams) past life of Napoleon Childs, an American cavalryman. Charged with turning raw recruits into cavalrymen in preparation for America's entry into WWI, Childs leads them in searches for Pancho Villa through the canyons and arroyos of a bleak yet lyrically rendered landscape. The third-person narration, largely from the point of view of Childs himself, lends itself to acute characterization yet leaves a lot of room for hypothetical thinking and reader speculation. Childs' foreshadowing aside, the climax still shocks with cruelty: the resolution is realistic and limns a case of extreme rough justice. Give this to Olmstead groupies, western fans, and lovers of refined, focused writing.--Loughran, Ellen Copyright 2009 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.