Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart

In 1895 Texas, Klara, the wife of Czech immigrant, Vaclav, dies in childbed while giving birth to Skala, their fourth son. Consumed by grief, Karel’s father will never be the same now that the light in his life is gone. Vaclav becomes cold and hardened as he struggles to raise his young sons alone on his land in Lavaca County Texas.

From the moment Skala was born, he has been shunned by his father. He and his brothers are raised lovelessly, with no respite from hard work as their father harnesses them to ploughs to work the land each day. This permanently and physically damages each boy by causing their upper spines and necks to lean to the right or left, depending on which side of the plough they worked. When Karel develops a love for horses, his father uses him to race his best stallion against that of their neighbours for tracts of land as the ultimate prize, accumulating wealth for his father.

Bruce Machart’s debut novel The Wake of Forgiveness is a deeply poignant story about family, loss, love, and despair. But most of all, it is about forgiveness. Set against the harsh Texas landscape, the author spins a clever tale of young boy's emergence into manhood. Machart's prose is beautiful and moving, taking the reader through scenes of violence as well as those of great tenderness.

The tale is complex, the characters multi-faceted. With the use of flashbacks, the story slowly unfolds, captivating the reader as it goes. This is not an easy, casual read. Rather, this is a novel to read slowly, carefully, to savour at one's leisure so that the reader can fully understand the depth of the story. The story sent my emotions into a tailspin of sadness, anger, outrage, and sympathy. Gentle women, broken souls, and hard men, against a harsh landscape make this a memorable read, one that will linger with you long after the covers have been closed and the book turned to rest on a bookshelf. A definite award winning novel in the near future.

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