Genre: Adventure / Rural Fiction / Coming of Age Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Publication Date: June 16, 2020 Number of Pages: 304 pages Scroll down for the giveaway!
After an attempted horse theft goes tragically wrong, sixteen-year-old Caleb Bentley is on the run with his mean-spirited older brother across the American Southwest at the turn of the twentieth century. Caleb’s moral compass and inner courage will be tested as they travel the harsh terrain and encounter those who have carved out a life there, for good or ill. Wealthy and bookish Randall Dawson, out of place in this rugged and violent country, is begrudgingly chasing after the Bentley brothers. With little sense of how to survive, much less how to take his revenge, Randall meets Charlotte, a woman experienced in the deadly ways of life in the West. Together they navigate the murky values of vigilante justice. Powerful and atmospheric, lyrical and fast-paced, All Things Left Wild is a coming-of-age for one man, a midlife odyssey for the other, and an illustration of the violence and corruption prevalent in our fast-expanding country. It artfully sketches the magnificence of the American West as mirrored in the human soul.
PRAISE for All Things Left Wild! “A debut full of atmosphere and awe. Wade gives emotional depth to his dust-covered characters and creates an image of the American West that is harsh and unforgiving, but — like All Things Left Wild — not without hope.” — Texas Literary Hall of Fame member Sarah Bird, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen “James Wade has delivered a McCarthy-esque odyssey with an Elmore Leonard ear for dialogue. All Things Left Wild moves like a coyote across this cracked-earth landscape—relentlessly paced and ambitiously hungry.” — Edgar Award finalist David Joy, When These Mountains Burn
Alternating between the perspectives of a teenage boy and older man, this sweeping saga spans the historic southwest into Texas, documenting the deeply-rooted pain that follows these two tragically linked individuals. From the first lines, the match is lit on this slow-burning story that draws you to what can only be the ultimate flaming conclusion. Yet, from out of the smoldering ash, redemption may be considered though there is a hint that the cycle of vengeance may not be completely broken.
For a debut, this is an absolutely impressive and stunning masterpiece that I don’t even believe I can do justice to in writing about! The author’s deft storytelling created an unsettling and suspenseful exploration of good and evil as well as an intense character study on the effects of trauma. From the title alone, the question of what it means to be “left wild” is posed throughout the narrative whether in regards to individuals and/or society. Life is immensely tough for everyone involved in this story, and the author paints a heartrending picture of that raw reality against the breathtaking backdrop of the landscape. His picturesque descriptions place readers right with the characters and provide a unique opportunity to walk together in this brutally oppressive and corrupt setting. In a previous post for this blog tour, the author provided a scrapbook page showcasing a few pictures of the real locations that were used as inspiration for the settings within the story, and I can honestly say that those images are overwhelmingly brought to life with his writing. There is magic between these pages that at once evokes the swagger needed to survive and the sensitivity required to not lose all sense of humanity.
Despite their age difference, Caleb and Randall face the pressures of the unrelenting world around them. All along this ride are thought-provoking questions that lend themselves toward insightful discussions about perceptions on masculinity that continue to shape and define our own modern understanding of what it means to be a man. In their own way, each is pursuing a path towards death; however, it is the love of a uniquely fierce and capable woman that steers them to salvation if but only for a moment. These women are no blushing belles or damsels in distress and each pairing is the very ideal of divined by God. Yet life is fleeting, and the fates of these men are still very much interwoven into one another because it’s not always so easy to just let things go.
“A man owns only his decisions.”
This is a raw and relevant look at the course of a choice and perhaps the legacy we choose to leave behind. Laced between the bravado of its directness lies poetic beauty. The story is filled with a multitude of captivating lines that speak so much truth and metaphors that will have you pondering long after the final page is turned. Like a parable, this story is one that I will definitely return to time and again. Compelling and unapologetic, this is highly recommended and should not be missed!
James Wade lives and writes in Austin, Texas, with his wife and daughter. He has had twenty short stories published in various literary magazines and journals. He is the winner of the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest and a finalist of the Tethered by Letters Short Fiction Contest. All Things Left Wild is his debut novel.
Many thanks to Lone Star Book Blog Tours and especially the author for providing me with a digital copy of the book. It was a pleasure reading, reviewing, and hosting. This is my honest and thoughtful review.