Friday, November 30, 2012

Wilderness by Lance Weller


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The book's description from Lance Weller's website:

Thirty years after the Civil War’s Battle of the Wilderness left him maimed, Abel Truman has found his way to the edge of the continent, the rugged, majestic coast of Washington State, where he lives alone in a driftwood shack with his beloved dog. Wilderness is the story of Abel, now an old and ailing man, and his heroic final journey over the snowbound Olympic Mountains. It’s a quest he has little hope of completing but still must undertake to settle matters of the heart that predate even the horrors of the war.
As Abel makes his way into the foothills, the violence he endures at the hands of two thugs who are after his dog is crosscut with his memories of the horrors of the war, the friends he lost, and the savagery he took part in and witnessed. And yet, darkness is cut by light, especially in the people who have touched his life—from Jane Dao-Ming Poole, the daughter of murdered Chinese immigrants, to Hypatia, an escaped slave who nursed him back to life, and finally to the unbearable memory of the wife and child he lost as a young man. Haunted by tragedy, loss, and unspeakable brutality, Abel has somehow managed to hold on to his humanity, finding way stations of kindness along his tortured and ultimately redemptive path.
Quite simply, Wilderness is a beautiful and heartbreaking story. Beautiful in the writing which inspires strong emotions of compassion, sympathy and appreciation of both the nature of people touched by tragedy and suffering and yet persevering to live a meaningful life without giving in to despair and loss of morals, and the Nature, with its landscape, the wilderness surrounding humans, this powerful element of rebirth, always escaping absolute destruction. Heartbreaking in how much pure evil can live in the hearts of men who are determined to hurt others and ruin their lives simply because they can. Heartbreaking also in watching innocent people get hurt, suffer and die in the nightmare of what is perhaps the worst of all wars, civil war (not that there are good wars because there aren't, ever). And Civil War and the battle of the Wilderness is an important event in American history this novel deals with as well.

The Battle of the Wilderness in 1864

Lance Weller is such a talented writer that saying how unbelievable it is his Wilderness is a debut novel seems somehow trite and taking away something from the depth of Mr. Weller's gift. It just somehow doesn't seem to matter whether it's his first or tenth novel. What matters is the story, the characters (good and evil and somewhere in-between) and the meaning, all of which will linger in one's memory for quite some time. Really, I would be surprised and not a little disappointed if anyone who reads it, would find Wilderness lacking in anything.


FTC: I received an e-galley of Wilderness by Lance Weller from the publisher, Bloomsbury via NetGalley for a review.