Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Wide Open

Finished October 14
Wide Open by Larry Bjornson

Set in the 1870s in Abilene, Kansas, this story is based on real events of the Midwest. The story begins in May 1871 and our storyteller here is Will Merritt, a boy. His father JT joined the United States 12 New York Cavalry during the Civil War, leaving his wife and son with his brother's family. When he returned for them in 1865 he found that he had a young daughter and that they had not been given the caring shelter he had hoped and the family moved on for other adventures. JT is always looking for what the future might bring and by 1871, he believes Abilene will provide the future he envisions.
Abilene is still a rough town, with one side of the tracks dubbed Texastown, a magnet for trouble and temporary visitors bringing cattle up from Texas to the train line. The mayor, Joe McCoy, hires Wild Bill Hickock to control this wildness. Will has a group of friends: Jasper, Gordon, Billy and Booth who are excited by this side of town and whose families are dependent on this activity for their livelihood. But there is a growing movement towards settlers and farming, providing a stable growth for the area, and Will's dad has decided to put his efforts behind that as he looks to the future once again. One particular family figures here, the Dunhams, with father Caleb and daughter Anna connecting to the Merritt family. Will's mother Eleanor is not a subservient wife, and works with JT towards their family's and community's future. This book shows the cruelty and compassion in this community and the inexorable move towards civilizing this region. Very entertaining.

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