Bruce Marchart's The Wake of Forgiveness is the September First Look selection at Barnes and Noble Book Clubs. This is Marchart's first novel; set among the Czech settlers who are determined to bend the tough Texas ground to their will, The Wake of Forgiveness evokes comparions with Ken Haruf and Cormac McCarthy. The story follows Karel, the youngest of four motherless brothers who all share the same acquired trait: their necks are deformed, kinked out to one side, from pulling their father's plow as a team.
The reader sees Karel as an infant, a man, and a young boy as the narrative moves between time periods. His mother dies during his birth and he is nursed by a neighbor. Karel is a talented horse-rider but his father takes away that pleasure when he loses a race, tying his family's future to that of the mysterious Villasenor. He is a successful farmer and dutiful father and husband but is far from ideal. He makes a very serious error in judgement that brings tensions between Karel and his brothers to a head. Karel is most definitely a flawed human being, as is every other character in the novel, and it makes him a more compelling central character as he changes over the course of the novel.
The ideas of forgiveness and family are at the heart of this novel. How should we act when we should forgive? How does one act when one refuses to forgive? Should we hold somene accountable for an event that was beyond his or her control? Where should one place blame? How do you define your family relative to the woman who gave birth to you or to the woman who nursed you?
The Wake of Forgiveness is a very atmospheric novel. The heat of a dance hall, the smell of a barn, the steam rising from a horse in the rain. The settings are very tangible but not over-described. I found it very hard to put this book down because I could never find a very good place to stop reading. Do I choose the chapter break when Villasenor and his daughters first appear? How about the chapter from the hawk's perspective? The scene in the barn after the dance hall or the horse race? The morning after the twins' rampage? No chapter ever had a "cliff-hanger" but the story flowed so well, even between sections from different time periods, that I really just wanted to see what happened next..and next...and next...and then the book was done.
The Wake of Forgiveness will be available in hardcover and ebook in late October.