THE SCAPEWEED GOAT by Frank Schaefer

THE SCAPEWEED GOAT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A first novel that re-creates the world of two mid-19th-century settlers--and shows how their lives were assaulted by a wilderness community of Rousseau-influenced but degenerate utopianists. Snowbound in his mountain cabin in the winter of 1900, the 70-plus-year-old narrator here (fearing he may not survive the winter) at last writes down the story of the terrible events of 1845. In that year, he and his pregnant young wife had settled in an idyllic valley ("I think that no two of God's children have ever been happier. We were an island of bliss"), where all was well until a stranger, wounded and emaciated, stumbled onto their homestead. Taking him in and nursing him to health, they found him to be a stalwart helper and remarkably knowledgeable about tire ways and mysteries of the wilderness. Again, all was well--until, in the dead of night, armed men (although not with guns) came to abduct the guest: they failed, but in the aftermath of the fight, the young wife lay dying from a poisoned iron burr thrown by a sling. From this point on, the reader learns, bit by bit, just who these wilderness storm-troopers were, and why the settlers' "guest" had chosen to escape their society: a society of "Noble Savages" that dated from the mid-18th century, that was founded upon a highly idealistic repudiation of the ills of "civilization," but that had degenerated to the most debased and appalling forms of paranoia, tyranny, perverted religiosity, and human-sacrificial rite. As the novel proceeds, there is another night raid; a pitched and ingeniously fought battle; another death; and, at end, an apocalyptic scene of vengeance triggered by the newly widowed settler. Interwoven throughout is his story as an old and philosophic man endeavoring to survive the winter in his isolated cabin: fending off wolverines; killing his horse and dog for food; even amputating his own hand after it's mangled by wolverines. Vivid and painstaking imaginary history with, in all, more adventure than depth.

ISBN: 671-67503-6
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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