Friday, October 10, 2014
"I am a poor, wayfaring stranger,traveling through this life of woe" lyrics
In a departure from his Dave Robicheau detective series, James Lee Burke brings his readers a riveting historical novel. Weldon Holland's life is described in a manner that parallels many important events of the last century.
As a teenager during the depression, Weldon lived at his grandfather's ranch. There, he encountered Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow who felt the backroad of the ranch would be a good place to lie low. Although they were ordered off the ranch, Weldon developed a lifelong fantasy about Bonnie and her radiant red hair.
WWII found Weldon as a college graduate and new second lieutenant in action in front of the U.S. lines. His unit comes into attack from German tanks with heavy casualties. Weldon is able to rescue his sergeant, Hershel Pine who was buried under by a passing tank. As Weldon is digging Hershel out, the reader feels the drama of the unexpected enemy tanks on raw recruits.
During this segment of the story, Weldon gets his first taste of anti semitism. We see what one man can achieve by taking a stance against this view and his manner in attempting to change another person's narrow view.
Later, Weldon and Hershel rescue Rosita Lowenstein from underneath a number of dead bodies, killed by Germans who abandoned a concentration camp as the allied soldiers approached. Rosita and Weldon form a love that carries them for the remainder of the story.
Back home, Weldon and Hershel go into business and feel the disappointment of dry oil wells and then the ecstasy when their wells begin to deliver oil. Wealth accumulates but Rosita is the daughter of a well known Communist woman in Spain and we see the manner in which communism was treated at the end of WWII.
The story continues with Hershel and his wife dealing with new wealth and with his wife, Linda Gail following her dream of becoming a Hollywood actress.
Burke has many themes in the story, from prejudice, to bravery and friendship. Weldon and Rosita are memorable characters, vividly portrayed and very sympathetic. Weldon is heroic in his approach as he stands alone for the things he believes and his love for Rosita.