Sunday, February 28, 2010

West to the Sun by T.G. Good

book cover

West to the Sun
by T.G. Good

Trade Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Outskirts Press
First Released: 2010

Source: Free review copy from author.

Back Cover Description:
"We're moving to Oregon." With these words, Jedediah Symons changes the life of his entire family forever. Leaving behind farm, family, and friends, the Symons begin a journey of thousands of miles across prairies, rivers, and mountains. With nothing more than the possessions that can be packed in a single wagon, their reliance on one another, and their faith in God, they battle storms, animals, hunger, and disease. Will they be able to overcome these obstacles? And how can 11-year-old Jeremiah help his family reach Oregon-their new home?

In West to the Sun, young Jeremiah experiences firsthand the adventure and the heartbreak of the Oregon Trail, the sorrow of leaving everything behind, and the joy of pursuing a new life. From the daily drudgery of hiking through the dry lands of the western frontier, to the extreme excitement of a buffalo hunt, mountains that reach the sky, bighorn sheep that battle for primacy, and rivers that threaten to swamp wagons and drown occupants, Jeremiah grows to appreciate the majesty of the country. Throughout their travels, Jeremiah and his family meet some of the men who made the western frontier: Joseph Robidoux, Jim Bridger, and Peg Leg Smith. Most importantly, Jeremiah learns the importance of family, friends, and faith-and what it means to be a man.

West to the Sun is an enjoyable historical fiction about an 11-year-old boy and his family traveling by wagon train along the Oregon Trail around 1849. Though not heavy-handed with the historical details, this is the sort of book you read because you like (or want to learn more about) this part of history.

Clearly the author carefully researched the physical terrain, the struggles, and the history of the trail. However, I did question a few of the minor details he gave about the animals, food storage, etc. But they weren't details that were critical to the story.

The tone of the novel was formal--partly because the author didn't use contractions (that I spotted). Even the obstacles and struggles were described so briefly and in such a matter-of-fact tone that there was rarely much chance to feel suspense and I, as a reader, usually felt held at a distance.

The characters were interesting and I wanted them to succeed, but they weren't very complex and only Jeremiah changed much.

The main characters were Christian. They did fairly frequently refer to God (as in, "God's amazing handwork" when referring to nature). There wasn't any preaching to the reader, though there was some non-religion-specific moralizing. I don't recall any mentions of Jesus, just God in general.

I don't recall any bad language, and there was no sex. I suspect that the novel would appeal most to tweens or teens (especially boys). Overall, I enjoyed this novel and would recommend it as good, clean reading to those wanting to learn more about the Oregon Trail.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
When Uncle Peter arrived at our house, it was as exciting as Christmas, Declaration Day, and the fall harvest festival combined. The sun was brighter, the water fresher, and the apples crisper and juicier in our mouths. For a ten-year-old boy, life when Uncle Peter was around was a picture of excitement.

Uncle Peter was everything my father was not. His laughter was loud, showing his teeth underneath the beard that he always sported. He knew the games of boys and was never too important or busy to play them. He told stories of the things that he had seen in a way that made you dream of these previously unseen wonders. While his clothes were never stylish in a modern sense, the buckskin that he favored always spoke of daily adventure. The dirt was not that of the sweat in a field, rather it was the dust of the trail taken and not forsaken, the uncertainty of life beyond the horizon.

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