*I received this ebook from the publisher Touchstone in exchange for an honest review.
“I, to this day, hold to only one truth: if a man chooses to carry a gun he will get shot. My father agreed to carry twelve.”
Thomas Walker is 12 when his father decides to venture out West to sell Samuel Colt’s Improved Revolving Gun. But a mere three days into the journey, Walker’s father is shot dead, and Thomas is left to find his way home with nothing but a gelding, a wagon, and a wooden model gun for protection. He encounters Henry Stands, a former ranger who reluctantly takes on responsibility for Thomas as they make their way back East. Told from the adult Thomas’s recollections, Road to Reckoning is part dime store novel and part coming-of-age tale.
Road to Reckoning was my first “wow” novel of 2014. Lautner’s choice to have an older Thomas narrate his tale allows for poignant moments of recollection, such as when he talks about journeying out with his father and the anticipation he felt:
Every word he spoke would be to me.
It is a fault of nature that fathers do not realize that when the son is young the father is like Jesus to him, and like with Our Lord, the time of his ministry when they crave his words is short and fleeting.
These observations aren’t often enough to become laborious, but they fit well in the telling. At the same time, Thomas also recognizes that his father doesn’t belong in the West, and his brief time there is evidence of that. Thomas can’t help but grudgingly look up to Henry Stands. Henry Stands, with his foreign gun the Native Americans think is magic, swaggers into this story and into Thomas’s life with a charisma that becomes the stuff of legends. Though he’d just as soon be without the burden of a young boy, he also recognizes his duty, leading to one of the best scenes in the book, when Stands faces down a group of men with nothing but a wooden pistol:
What you may make of a man approaching abomination with a wooden pistol in his hands is your faith’s decision. If you are young I hope it does not inspire too much. If you are older you may think Henry Stands foolish, or worse, bitten by madness, or you may yet feel something rising in your chest at the thought of yourself about to stand down four armed men with nothing but your valor and self as your only true weapon. I have given you only a wooden toy.
Though most of the comparisons call True Grit andÂ The Sisters Brothers companion reads, much of Road to Reckoning reminded me of Huck and Jim’s journey inÂ Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Just as Huck and Jim are an unlikely pair who do fine with one another as long as they’re on the Mississippi, Thomas and Henry’s tenuous alliance seems sure until others interfere.
A product of the West*, Road to Reckoning fits its setting well while also tempting readers with its story of danger and derring do and the after effects on the young man at the heart of it all.
Add this to your Goodreads shelf.