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The Last Crossing

Guy Vanderhaeghe

2,606 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 087113912X / ISBN 13: 9780871139122
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 2002
Condition: Very Good Hardcover
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VG+ condition; top/bottom spine bent; bottom corner front board slightly curved; some bending noted top/bottom edges of jacket; jacket shows slight shelving. 391 pages. Bookseller Inventory # 003516

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Last Crossing

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press, New York

Publication Date: 2002

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition: Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

Edition: First Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

A novel of ruggedness and salvation, an epic masterpiece set in a time when worlds collided, were destroyed, and were built anew

A #1 best-seller in Canada and winner of the Canadian Booksellers Association’s Fiction Book of the Year Award, The Last Crossing is a sweeping tale of breathtaking quests, adventurous detours, and hard-won redemption. Master storyteller Guy Vanderhaeghe—hailed by Richard Ford as "simply a wonderful writer"—takes us on an exhilarating journey from the ivy-covered towers of Oxford in Victorian England to the dusty whiskey trading posts of the nineteenth-century American and Canadian West.

Englishmen Charles and Addington Gaunt are ordered by their tyrannical industrialist father to find their brother Simon, who has gone missing in the wilds of the American West. Charles, a disillusioned artist, and Addington, a disgraced military captain, set off to Fort Benton in America and enlist the services of a guide to lead them north, where Simon was last seen. The brothers hire the enigmatic Jerry Potts, half Blackfoot, half Scot, who suffers from his own painful past. At Addington’s command, the party grows to include Caleb Ayto, a sycophantic American journalist, who is to record the journey for posterity; Lucy Stoveall, a fiery and beautiful woman who is bent on finding the men who viciously killed her sister; Custis Straw, a Civil War veteran in love with Lucy; and saloon keeper Aloysius Dooley. This unlikely posse, now encumbered with both psychological baggage and wagon trains, becomes entangled in an unfolding drama that forces each to come to terms with his o! r her own demons.

Told from alternating points of view and in vivid flashbacks, The Last Crossing conveys the varied lives of its search party in haunting scenes—a bear hunt at dawn, the discovery of an Indian village decimated by smallpox, a sharpshooter’s devastating annihilation of his prey, a soldier’s guilt-ridden memory of his own survival, and an atypical love story.

Review:

Set in the late 19th century, The Last Crossing, Guy Vanderhaeghe's first novel since his acclaimed Englishman's Boy, is the story of three well-off English brothers: twins Simon and Charles Gaunt and their elder sibling, Addington, a former soldier and an arrogant scoundrel. At the behest of their dictatorial father, Charles and Addington travel the prairies of the U.S. and Canada in search of sensitive Simon, who has disappeared. Much of the novel concerns their journeys--bottles of port and claret rattling in their wagons--through Indian country with a cast of intricately drawn, fully realized characters. The small troupe is led through the whiskey-coloured light by Jerry Potts, a half-breed with one foot firmly in each world. The heart of the plot involves the love that Charles, a painter, feels for Lucy Stoveall, a simple but lovely country woman who accompanies them, secretly intent on avenging her sister's murder. However, the most intriguing character in this marvelous collection of all-too-human personalities is Custis Straw, a Bible-reading, heavy-drinking Civil War veteran who hides his tremendous dignity behind a bumbling facade, and who also loves Lucy.

Vanderhaeghe's rich language reveals a genuine feel for the prairies and their rough settlements: "a boom town draws rogues like a jam jar draws wasps," he writes, and describes "miles of wet plain patched with apple green, new penny copper, glints of silver." Though this is a Western in the traditional sense, Vanderhaeghe never sinks into parody. Rather, he uses the Western motif to reveal a number of profound universal truths about personal honour, and human failings and strengths. His humane character depictions reach emotional depths found in few novels today. --Mark Frutkin, Amazon.ca

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