I can’t recall the last time I read a western. But Lin Enger’s engaging, well-crafted tale of Ulysses Pope and his quest for redemption from the Cheyenne he slaughtered as part of the carnage that George Custer led against the Cheyenne, is a hard tale to put down.
I couldn’t say it better than James Scott: “Lin Enger sets out from the conventional Western and brings the reader into new emotional territory.”
Scott nailed the appeal of this book. Enger’s characters–Ulysses, his Dutch wife Gretta, and his two young boys–are so well drawn that you feel you know them. Their speech, their actions, their inner conflicts are believable and compelling, the kind of writing that makes you want to talk about the book with a friend over a cup of coffee and a cheese Danish: “What did you think when Ulysses left Gretta with no note, no warning, no letter home? What must Gretta have felt when she discovered her two young sons had gone after their dad?” And mostly, “What is the dark sin that drives Ulysses to seek redemption?”
Enger’s elegant syntax and spot-on descriptions made me wish I were still teaching. “(Danny) was settled in his window seat, sunlight covering his face and sparkling in his long, sandy lashes. His hands were pressed together palm to palm and squeezed between his patched knees. His eyes were clearer than Eli remembered ever seeing them. He looked stronger, too, despite the pallor of his skin and the leftover pain wrinkles in his forehead and lips.” (page 207, Kindle editionShort, descriptive sentences, but they carry a whopping lot of information, don’t you think?
This is a novel for those of us who have struggled with moral conflicts, but it’s also a tale that’s likely to grab a teenager, reluctant reader or otherwise. It’s a book for word lovers. It’s a book for writers. But mostly, it’s a darned good story by a gifted story teller.