From author Kindall (Pearl, 2015, etc.) comes a Western about one man’s mission in the 1800s.
It’s 1854, and Missourian Didier Rain makes his living by transporting various items to the West. He has delivered “stained-glass windows, a brood mare, porcelain dolls” and even “a lawyer as far as Fort Boise.” But nothing could have prepared Rain for his latest assignment. A Mormon man hires Rain to transport a young bride-to-be to a place called the City of Rocks. The catch is that the bride is not simply young, she’s a baby. The baby’s name is Virtue, and if Rain can complete his task of bringing her to the Prophet Nehi, he will be awarded $30,000. Rain is given a crash course in diaper changing, a goat to provide milk for Virtue, and an assurance that he is the “True Deliverer,” who will undoubtedly succeed. To align things with the guiding prophecy (and inherently make the journey even more difficult), Rain is not allowed to carry a weapon, not even for hunting. And he shouldn’t even think about partaking in liquor, coffee, or tobacco. It’s a strange and dangerous mission, but Rain is a strange and dangerous man. He speaks several languages, has a penchant for poetry, and has quite a troubling family history. Rain is originally from Cherbourg and to say that his past is haunted by circumstances of a Freudian nature would be an understatement. He has, in other words, not come to the American West simply for the weather. As Rain says of the event that forced him to flee France, “My life seemed over just as it was set to begin.”
That anyone would send such a man (unarmed no less) with only a goat to provide milk for a baby while attempting to cross a vast stretch of wild country stretches the limits of believable fiction. It’s a quest with events that range from the silly (Rain’s horses seem to communicate with him) to the disturbing (a group of buffalo hunters force Rain to wear a dress followed by, as Rain describes it, an evening of “raucous indulgence in my orificial endowments.”) Our antihero has a peculiar, poetic way of speaking. He describes the way “water snakes fornicated in the lily pads, their golden eyes following us askance as we passed.” Rain is not entirely unlikable, but he would undoubtedly make a poor dinner guest. This novel shows an Old West that’s much weirder than standard tales of cowboys and Indians would leave one to believe. Certainly there must be room among John Wayne–style heroes for a multilingual transporter who seems fairly indifferent to his own sexual assault. Few things can be said to be standard about this tale, and the strangeness gives way to suspense in the final pages. Rain winds up on the cusp of completing his mission even if completion might not be all it is cracked up to be. Virtue’s fate becomes a nail-biter, but first the reader must endure miles and miles of seemingly endless Rain.
A creatively twisted adventure, though its protagonist can be unsettling.