Bruce Machart, who visits Turnrow this Thursday (9/30), has just published The Wake of Forgiveness, one of the most impressive debut novels we've read in a long time. Fans of big-country dramas and sagas of sons, brothers, husbands and horses should take serious note.
The novel opens in Texas, 1895, as planter Vaclav Scala watches his wife die giving birth to his fourth son, Karel, who will grow up to play a pivotal role in the family's story. The Scalas begin to unfurl following the matriarch's death, and their fates are sealed when Karel is saddled with his father's hasty bet — a horse race, pitting the boy against the lovely daughter of a wily Spanish landowner.
What follows is the story of their winnings and losses, the land and animals both in and out of their possession, and the women who tolerate them.
Using the big rugged West of the early 1900s, Machart explores motherless sons, suffering a tyrannical father, and the ways in which these deficits are manifested in their own families and relationships. It succeeds on the strength of these characters and the author's muscular prose. He crafts big, tornadic sentences that broaden each scene, and fashions some of the most boisterous, colorful dialogue this side of Deadwood. (Not as f—n' profane, but still plenty f—n' impressive to say the f—n' least.)
And though this is certainly the story of men, a host of robust women characters give this story a wider appeal than so many of the mannish historical epics we've seen in recent years.
The Wake of Forgiveness announces the arrival of a genuine new talent, and we look forward to meeting Bruce and reading more. Fans of great equestrian fiction like Coal Black Horse and All the Pretty Horses should come out and hear the reading, or at least reserve a signed copy.