THE WAY WEST by Weldon King


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In this debut, King remembers his homesteading family, with thorough attention paid to the historical events that shaped their experience.

Beginning with the westward migration of the King family from North Carolina, King describes the family moving via covered wagon in the mid-19th century, stopping in Georgia and Alabama toward their final destination of Texas. King begins to get some narrative traction when describing James Arthur, a deeply religious ancestor who rode a horse named Rebel in the American Civil War, serving under William Bedford Forrest. King interrupts the narrative at regular intervals to provide historical background information, including brief notes on who Harriet Beecher Stowe was, for instance, or details on the attack on Fort Sumter. King follows this format throughout: brief nods to the experiences of the King family planted amid retellings of WWII battles or the formation of the Loving-Goodnight Trail and so on. In these, his politics come through: He hastens to clarify that, on the Trail of Tears, “many whites traveled along with the Indians, offering assistance of any form,” he downplays the importance of slavery as a cause for the Civil War and gives a lot of real estate to the “Indian depredations,” the slaughter of settlers by “pagan killers.” Those looking for a sweeping history of America with personal anecdotes along the way may find something of interest here, but though King proves himself to be comfortable relating American history, there’s not much narrative form. There are hardly any scenes: Almost everything is told in summary, with the author eventually finding more footing when he relates his personal experiences of growing up on a farm in the book’s latter half. The family history will struggle to find an audience beyond descendants.

Often charming but in need of more scene-setting to ground the author’s knowledge of history.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2012
ISBN: 978-1479355273
Page count: 268pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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