BAREBACK! by Jerry Ellis

BAREBACK!

One Man's Journey Along the Pony Express Trail
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Aimless account of the several months Ellis spent retracing the route of the Pony Express riders from St. Joseph, Missouri, to San Francisco. As in Walking the Trail (1991), the part-Cherokee author again uses events, landscapes, and personalities from his travels as inspiration for reminiscences about his hell-raising youth. But where Ellis's earlier work, detailing his trek along the 900-mile Cherokee ``Trail of Tears,'' achieved emotional and historical resonance because of his own Native American heritage, this new book has no such compelling raison d'àtre--despite the author's proclamation that he's admired the Pony Express since boyhood. Signing on with a ``covered wagon train,'' Ellis learns that he's joined a mismanaged, ill-conceived expedition made up of a ragtag collection of wagons, campers, and recreation vehicles. Soon alienated from the group, he strikes out on his own and meets a variety of fellow travelers--a poet-bartender; wilting ``flower children''; a young, pregnant Austrian woman with whom he has a brief affair; and, perhaps most divertingly, ``The Rabbit Man,'' a gentle semi-recluse who's addicted to Eskimo Pies and who's been holed up in a Kansas storm cellar. But most of those whom Ellis meets remain colorless on the page, while his tone drifts into sentiment--as in his observation, upon meeting an elderly man, of ``how short and precious life is.'' Throughout, the author intersperses excerpts from Sir Richard Burton's journal of a similar trip--though the analogies do little to enliven or clarify Ellis's experiences. Maybe Ellis should have bought a saddle--as it is, he falls off this nag of a book, hard.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-30586-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993




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