Friday, August 8, 2014

James Lee Burke Wayfares A Stranger

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow captured the attention of the American public during the Great Depression. And at age 16, Weldon Avery Holland was no exception when Bonnie and Clyde happened to drive through his grandfather's farm in the spring of 1934.

While Weldon had no love for them as outlaws, he envied their audacity to defy convention and change their fate rather than accept it. If he could muster a similar strength, there would be no question what he would do. He would convince them to rescue his mother from a mental institution.

But Weldon, as taken by the outlaws as he was, never has the chance to solicit their help the first time. His grandfather, retired lawman and struggling rancher Hackberry Holland, asked them to move along. They oblige, but only long enough to return and tempt Weldon into the woods.

Wayfaring Stranger is a sweeping historical epic.

The second encounter might have proved fatal for Weldon Holland had Parker not intervened. She asks him to pretend they never met, but imagination is not enough. His grandfather confronts them and Weldon takes a shot of their car as they drive away. Later, however, he would grow to think of Bonnie as his first real love.

He would meet his second real love, Rosita Lowenstein, a little more than 10 years later after he and his sergeant Hershel Pine barely survive the Battle Of The Bulge. The two men find Rosita abandoned and left for dead in an extermination camp. The three of them manage to walk out of the Ardennes together.

The bond between them is inseparable, even if they are briefly separated after reuniting with the Allied lines. Hershel pledges to make Weldon a partner in an oil pipe company. And Weldon convinces Rosita to come back to Texas with him, where the two men intend to make their fortunes.

It's in Texas that James Lee Burke lays out his epic story of a plaintive soul on a journey through life as the reward for surviving the war is cut short when they meet millionaire and former Marine aviator Roy Wiseheart and his anti-Semitic wife Clara. Although Wiseheart makes himself out to be an ally, his wife takes exception to Rosita for her heritage and Hershel's wife, Linda Gail, for catching the eye of her husband.

Burke manages to capture both the promise and the plague of the American dream in that it invites both honorable underdogs and unscrupulous elitists to the same table. In doing so, however, there is never any guarantee elitists will like it. They are just as inclined to shake someone's hand to buy someone's ingenuity as they are to bite it and then take what they want. Their resources are deep.

A few more graphs about author James Lee Burke. 

Although Burke's fascination with allowing stories to circle back to the beginning may feel predictable to some, most will discover the Wayfaring Stranger as his finest work. As a historical thriller painted with the lush and vivid colors of the final frontier days and his proclivity to test the mettle of his characters, Wayfaring Stranger resurrects an American dream in all its glory and trappings.

The novel feels especially authentic as Burke has often said that he considers the Holland family to be the one that bears the most resemblance to his own. Some similarities are apparent. Burke grew up along the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast. While he earned bachelor's and master;s degrees from the University of Missouri, he has also worked as a landman for an oil company, college professor, and social worker.

Wayfaring Stranger By James Lee Burke Wanders 9.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Wayfaring Stranger is a thriller at its core, but a love story at its heart and a tale of perseverance in its head. As such, the story is both ambitious and beautifully told as it shares the life of a man who grew up and out of the American Depression. Simply put, it is an inspiration from a time when men were tough and women were cut from a different cloth as they faced challenges with nothing but each other.

Wayfaring Stranger: A Novel by James Lee Burke can be ordered from Amazon or downloaded for iBooks. The audiobook is narrated by Will Patton, who is well regarded for the life he breathes into the work. Nobody could read this book better. Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke is also available at Barnes & Noble.
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