THE WHIPPING BOY by Speer Morgan

THE WHIPPING BOY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A young Indian boy coming of age in the late-19th-century Oklahoma Territory and Arkansas is depicted in this sensitive but often plodding and listless novel by the author of The Assemblers (1986). As a teenager, Tom Freshour, a mixed-blood Choctaw Indian, is brought by the orphanage where he has been raised to Fort Smith, Arkansas, to witness, along with other foundlings, one of the last executions ordered by Isaac Parker, the famed ``hanging judge.'' Spotted by a local merchant in need of young boys to serve as couriers, Tom and two of his friends are hired, and the headmaster of the orphanage is just as glad to be rid of three mouths to feed. Attached to a traveling hardware drummer named W.W. ``Jake'' Jaycox, Tom travels between the new Oklahoma Territory, the Indian Nations, and Fort Smith to help sell hardware and collect debts. Like any hero of a coming-of-age tale, Tom discovers the size of the world, the allure and incomprehensibility of the other sex, and, eventually, something about the nature of good and evil. He finds in the old salesman the only friend he's ever really known. Only gradually does the deep cruelty of the church-run orphanage where he was brought up emerge. Stripes on his back testify to the accuracy of the book's title. A freak accident brings the mysterious and alluring Samantha ``Sam'' King into the lives of Tom and his mentor. Despite its sometimes grim subject matter and Morgan's attempt to evoke a sense of historical gravity in his portrait of the American West on the cusp of modernity, this is a surprisingly inconsequential novel. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 11th, 1994
ISBN: 0-395-67725-4
Page count: 326pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1994




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