In the wake of family tragedy, Indiana farmer Thompson Grey takes to the Santa Fe Trail in a spare and powerful story of the meaning of family, human frailties, and ultimately, redemption.
Winner of the 2014 WWA Spur Award for Best Western Traditional Novel & the Chaucer Award in the Western CategoryIn spring of 1858, Thompson Grey, a young farmer, travels to his father’s estate seeking funds to expand his holdings. He covets the land. Far overstaying his visit, he returns home to find that his absence has contributed to a devastating family tragedy. Haunted by remorse, Thompson abandons his farm and begins a westward exile in the attempt to outpace his grief. During his wanderings, he encounters emigrants along the Santa Fe Trail who force him to assert his values, re-awaken his connection with humanity, and reevaluate his ties to the land. Unwittingly, he finds himself at journey’s end in the one place where his strongest temptations are able to overtake him and once again put him to the test.
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Gary Schanbacher was born in the Midwest, raised in Southeast Virginia, and lives just outside Denver, Colorado. His short story collection, Migration Patterns, received a PEN/Hemingway Honorable Mention for distinguished first works of fiction and won the Colorado Book Award, the High Plains First Book Award and the Eric Hoffer General Fiction Award. He has been a Hemingway Fellow at Ucross Foundation, serves on the board of directors of Lighthouse Writers Workshop, a non-profit writing center, and is a founding partner of The Writers Block, a writing co-community.From Booklist:
*Starred Review* The Purgatory (or Purgatoire) is a river in southern Colorado. The river and the title serve as a metaphor for the odyssey of Thompson Grey, a young Indiana farmer whose efforts to overcome his personal purgatory form the core of this beautifully written novel. In 1858 Grey returns home after an unexpectedly prolonged journey to his father’s Kentucky estate. He finds one son dead and his wife and other son in death throes, all from some form of prairie fever. Grey abandons his prosperous farm and begins walking west with his only goal to purge the demons of grief, guilt, and rage that torment him. As he moves west, Grey encounters a variety of circumstances and characters, including a sympathetic wagon master, abolitionists, and pro-slavery border ruffians in Kansas. Stopping in Colorado, his life becomes entwined with other families, each with their own secret sorrows, as they attempt to establish farms. Grey is forced to struggle with both his torments and his humane instincts as he seeks redemption. Schanbacher is a gifted writer whose prose is always elegant, whether describing the land, a winter storm, or the inner life of his characters. This is an intense and emotionally stirring saga. --Jay Freeman
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