Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Hard Life

In Crossing Purgatory by Gary Schanbacher we have a man who suffers terribly over the death of his wife and two boys who died from cholera in 1858. They lived in Indiana and the man was a landowner and farmer, but he wanted to increase his holdings so he pays a visit to his father to get some money. When he returned from this failed mission, he found his sons already dead and his wife critically ill and he feels guilty that he failed them for naught. He heads west with a small wagon train in the charge of a Captain Upperdine and is amazed with all the vacant lands just setting there waiting to be farmed.

But he cannot get over his guilt feelings and has nightmares over them and worries continually that he should never have left his family alone. He manages to make friends with the Johnsons, Obadiah and Hanna and their son Joseph and a freed black man. Prior to reaching the confluence of the Arkansas and Purgatoire Rivers, they are attacked by Missouri raiders and Obadiah and the black man are killed with Joseph injured and Hanna taken advantage of sexually. The man has more guilt for not showing up soon enough, but he does run the attackers off and save Hanna and Joseph.

Upperdine has a wife and many acres of land not too far away from the last incident and the man, Thompson Grey is his name, decides to hang around there and see if he wants to continue on west in the future. He helps a Mexican family take care of Upperdine's and the Mex's farmland and continues in his funk unable to get his past out of his mind.

There is much more going on in this story, but it is a portrait of one farmer and his devotion to the land that reads to me like a Russian story; one dark, depressing, yet inspiring and positive that you hope will end on a positive note. This is an e-book published by Pegasus Books LLC and distributed by Open Road Integrated Media.

The author, Gary Schunbacher, is a terrific writer here and I delighted in reading the book. It kept me enthralled all the way through, even though there isn't much dialogue, just enough to keep the plot moving; a stirring narrative of one man's struggles to maintain his sanity in this barely populated land..


  1. Sounds like one you really liked this one. I like the story idea, might give it a look. I like the photo at the top, very nice.

  2. Sounds like a good one. I'll have to have a look see

  3. Yes, I do like the sounds of this one.

  4. Oscar, I like it too. Thompson Grey sounds like a realistic and well-drawn character.

  5. I imagine suffering and struggling were the norm for many people in that area back then.