American West Joan Brady Theory of War

ISBN 13: 9780449909133

Theory of War

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9780449909133: Theory of War

"[A] vivid historical novel--part poignant biographical fiction, part raw frontier epic."
TIME
Taking flight from an extraordinary real-life family history, here is a riveting novel of how the past lives on, generation after generation. THEORY OF WAR is the richly imagined story of one woman's journey into what a distant relation might have experienced--and how echoes of his suffering haunt his descendents to this day.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A white slave in post-Civil War America: that's the hook for this semi-autobiographical fiction. Brady has already written a novel (The Impostor, 1979) and an autobiography (The Unmaking of a Dancer, 1982); here, she reconstructs a life of her grandfather, the slave. Jonathan Carrick was a so-called ``boughten boy,'' purchased at age four for farmwork; he ran away at 16; four of his children would commit suicide. What interests Brady is identity. How is it formed if you are a solitary slave-child? Mulling over the question are narrator/granddaughter Malory Carrick and her uncle Atlas, a son of slave Jonathan. Sequences from Jonathan's life (slaving on a Kansas tobacco farm; riding the railroads, free at last, as a brakeman) are interrupted by discussions between niece and uncle (Atlas has his memories; Malory has been reading the coded diaries) about the meaning of Jonathan's life (the reader becomes a student at an offbeat seminar). Malory sees her grandfather's life fueled (and corroded) by hatred, not for slavemaster Alvah Stoke so much as for Stoke's son George, Jonathan's vicious tormentor. The slave is a model soldier in his war against George, striking opportunely, beating him until he is surely dead, then escaping. Twenty years later, a newly ordained minister, he will lose his religious faith when he discovers that George is alive and flourishing, a US senator; it's war again. Jonathan does get a life (he marries, has children, becomes a successful farmer, albeit a lousy husband and father), but his rage never subsides, returning him to the battlefield for a final confrontation with the Senator when both are old men. There are problems here: awkward format, awkward fact/fiction straddle, overworked war analogy, hokey showdown. Yet this deliberately rough-edged work does command respect for its blistering anger at the poison of slavery in the bloodstream of the Carricks...and America. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Mallory Carrick, the narrator of this provocative, ambitious novel by the author of The Imposter , is the granddaughter of a white slave. Jonathan Carrick was "bound out" to a farmer as a boy in 1865; though he ran away at age 16, his enslavement instilled a fury that, Mallory states, "pollutes my life, even though the man was dead before I was born." Desperate to understand her fierce, emotionally crippled ancestor, she flies from her home in England to Washington state, where her great-uncle recounts the story of Jonathan's life: his horrific boyhood, his years as a railroad brakeman, his conflict as a fundamentalist minister who doubted the Word he preached, his war against the imperious son of his erstwhile owner. Confined to a wheelchair by a spinal tumor, Mallory seeks "the truth" about her grandfather but must rely on such fallible sources as her alcoholic great-uncle's failing memory and Jonathan's coded journals. Drawing on the actual experiences of her own grandfather, Brady brings a riveting tale shockingly to life with her flair for colorful characterization and vivid language. However, her tendency to indulge in philosophical musings overwhelms a story that would have been far more powerful and unsettling if it had been more simply told. BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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