Wilderness: A tale of tragedy and redemption

WildernessAs I’ve mentioned before, I tend to gravitate toward historical fiction, and Wilderness by Lance Weller takes place in alternating times during and 30 years after the Civil War, so this was right up my alley.

The story features Abel Truman, a man who has gone through unimaginable loss and pain in his lifetime living alone (well, with his dog) in a rustic old shack as a sick, old man in Washington State. Abel is clearly on his last legs, but is felt compelled to leave his shack and begin traveling on a mission of redemption – this journey is also filled with pain, perhaps, to me, the most troublesome of the story.

Older Abel’s tale is interlaced with his younger self experiencing the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, where he fought with the Confederates (though he was of northern descent). Abel, having gone through many trials and nearly losing his arm in fighting is nursed by an unlikely source – two escaped slaves. He develops a bond with his saviours, however there was suffering here as well, which eventually lead to him leaving for his life of solitude, and ultimately trying to return for his mission of redemption.

My biggest issue with the book was the flowery and descriptive prose that Weller used. At times it was fine, but other times I found it a bigger distraction, and felt like the book was dragging on.

Aside from the writing style, Wilderness is a story that is filled with quite a bit of pain and loss, but also some bright spots like the compassion people can have for one another, even under trying circumstances. If you’re a fan of this style, you’ll enjoy it, but it was too hard to get past for me. I give Wilderness a 2/5.

To Kill a Mockingbird: a classic everyone should read

To Kill a MockingbirdOften times classic novels don’t appeal to me because they feel over-hyped, but every so often one catches my attention and I give it a go.

What intrigued me most about Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird? Well the themes played a big part: racial injustice, class, gender roles, the loss of a child’s innocence. But it was also the way she went about telling the stories in the small southern town of Maycomb, Alabama – through a child’s lens.

Taking place during the Depression, the book is split in two parts. The first part focuses on telling the story of Scout Finch, the protagonist, and her brother Jem. The two of them, along with their summertime friend Dill spend much of their time preoccupied with trying to catch a glimpse ‘Boo’ Radley, the reclusive neighbour at the end of their street. The second part focuses on the children’s perspective of a very adult case of Tom Robinson, a black man their father Atticus is defending, who is accused of raping a white woman.

Scout is one of my favourite literary characters – young and naive, but curious with a strong, take no bull attitude. She always tried to push buttons by not conforming to societal norms – basically acting like a boy, which was radical in the 30’s. Much of her spark, she got from her father Atticus, who raised his kids to understand the world they lived in and that it wasn’t perfect, but did so in a way that went against the grain of the time. As she learned more about the Tom Robinson rape trial, from speaking with him, he didn’t sugar coat it or push her aside as most parents would, which helped Scout’s character mature. His character is flawless in his values and though it must have been a struggle raising his children on his own (with a lot of help from Calpurnia, their maid) he always empowered his children to learn for themselves. His biggest lesson, and one that weaved the two plot lines together was that it’s always important to view the world in the other person’s skin, so you get a better understanding of where they’re coming from.

I’m happy I read this small novel that packed such a memorable punch. If you haven’t managed to pick it up, I highly recommend you do – you won’t be disappointed. As an aside, I watched the movie after I finished the book, and while the casting was spot on, I found it omitted a lot and changed around so much of the story that it lost what made the book great. I give To Kill a Mockingbird a 5/5.

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