Road to Reckoning by Robert Lautner is a Western novel taking place in 1837 This is Mr. Lautner’s debut novel.
At age 12, Thomas Walker, a sheltered boy living in New York City, joins his father, a traveling salesman, to go out west and sell Samuel Colt’s revolutionary “Improved Revolving Gun”. Not long after their travels start, Thomas’ father is killed by robbers, and the young orphan tries to make it back home with his few possessions, including a wooden model of the gun, and no money, relying on the kindness of strangers.
Thomas is paired with Henry Stands, a crabby Indiana Ranger who likes to be left alone while he pursues criminals for bounty. Though Thomas is intimidated by the Ranger, who intends to leave him at the first town he finds, he feels secure and does his best to stick around.
Thomas is not a boy and not a man, and he doesn’t get to decide which one he can be. The boy, still vulnerable, wants to be a macho man but is not match for the shysters and rough men he meets.
The book is dark, violent but also very enjoyable. The characters are complex, interesting and engaging, the story is very good.
One of the most interesting aspects of the novel, for me, was the relationship of Thomas with his dead father, since the story is told in hindsight by an older Thomas looking at his adventures with a sense of forgiveness and maturity that is surprising. The elder Thomas forgives his father’s shortcomings, and mistakes which, at times, put his young life at risk.
Walker and his protector, Henry Stands, make an interesting pair. Walker wants to get home to his aunt after witnessing his father’s murder, Stands couldn’t care less about the boy but as the journey extends, both see that there is something more than just reaching an end point.
This book was my first big surprise of 2014, a Western by an Englishman about a boy written with intelligence and charisma.Powered by Sidelines