I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Road to Reckoning by Robert Lautner
Published by Touchstone on February 4, 2014
With taut prose and a swift plot, this literary crime novel set in 1800s Pennsylvania captures the unlikely friendship between a spirited young boy and a gruff ex-ranger on a shared quest for vengeance.
Twelve-year-old Thomas Walker has never left New York City. His father, a traveling salesman hoping to earn money by selling Samuel Colt’s recent invention, the “Improved Revolving Gun,” takes young Thomas with him on the road. But even the world’s first true revolver cannot save them from danger, and what starts as an adventure soon turns into a nightmare.
When his father is murdered, Thomas must rely on his own wits, courage, and determination, as well as a wooden replica of the Colt revolver, to protect himself. Luckily, an encounter with a surly ex-ranger, Henry Stands, leads to an improbable partnership, and the two set out in perilous pursuit of vengeance—that is, if they can escape the thieves who lurk around each trail, river, and road.
In the spirit of The Sisters Brothers and True Grit, this spare, elegant, and emotionally resonant story conveys, through a boy’s eyes, the pain of losing a father as well as the fascinating history of how the birth of the revolver changed the course of violence in America. Road to Reckoning offers a window into the history of the American West and the heart of a boy yearning for love.
I originally read Road to Reckoning because I thought it would be interesting to read of the birth of the revolver, even if from a fictional standpoint. That portion of the novel was very interesting and caught my eye but it was the characters that drew me in.
Even though told as an old man, I enjoyed hearing the story from a twelve-year-old point of view and saw Thomas grow up before his time, with the tragedies he faces, whether it be the threat of asylum of running for his life by a man with no teeth, his innocence and naivety of a child is slowly chipped away. Thomas is a likable kid, who like Dorothy, only wants to go home and because of that I routed for him all the way.
Henry Stands is our Rooster Cogburn of the story. A crotchety man, who like an unwilling guardian feels obligated to get Thomas home safe from harm. Henry Stands was rough around the edges, but like the Grinch who stole Christmas had a heart in there somewhere.
In the musical, The Sound of Music Captain Von Trapp confesses his love for Maria by stating: “That night at dinner, when you sat on that ridiculous pine cone.” The almost instantaneous love between Captain and Fraulein is how I would best describe my liking for Mr. Stands. While on virtue he may not be in the same line as Maria, he was still a player that as a reader I cared deeply about no matter what his motives.
Like the depth of Thomas Walker and Henry Stands, the descriptions of their surroundings were deep to. I could feel the wooden revolver in my hand and the cold air on my back, transporting me into their world. Everything was so vividly placed that it took very little imagination on my part.
The conclusion hit me like a train. It happened quickly, unexpectedly, and nearly knocked me over. As I said above of the vast descriptions, I was felt to be kneeling next to Thomas Walker away from danger and only hearing and seeing shadow. But that was enough because the aftermath was laid out in a way that was shockingly grotesque and was glad to not have witnessed it first hand.
Like Dorothy who clicked her heels three times, Thomas finally makes his way home but with several more forks in the road than the girl in pigtails, ending on a bittersweet note.
Road To Reckoning, was a devilish good read that I would highly recommend.