Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML: From the New York Times bestselling author of Cold Mountain and Varina, a stunning new novel that paints a vivid portrait of life in the Great Depression Hurtling past the downtrodden communities of Depression-era America, painter Val Welch travels westward to the rural town of Dawes, Wyoming. Through a stroke of luck, he's landed a New Deal assignment to create a mural representing the region for their new Post Office. A wealthy art lover named John Long and his wife Eve have agreed to host Val at their sprawling ranch. Rumors and intrigue surround the couple: Eve left behind an itinerant life riding the rails and singing in a western swing band. Long holds shady political aspirations, but was once a WWI sniperâ??and his right hand is a mysterious elder cowboy, a vestige of the violent old west. Val quickly finds himself entranced by their lives. One day, Eve flees home with a valuable painting in tow, and Long recruits Val to hit the road with a mission of tracking her down. Journeying from ramshackle Hoovervilles to San Francisco nightclubs to the swamps of Florida, Val's search for Eve narrows, and he soon turns up secrets that could spark formidable changes for all of them. In The Trackers, singular American writer Charles Frazier conjures up the lives of everyday people during an extraordinary period of history that bears uncanny resemblance to our own. With the keen perceptions of humanity and transcendent storytelling that have made him beloved for decades, Frazier has created a powerful and timeless new classic.
â€¦some days the converging portents felt like the end of the world was approaching, like the next logical progression would be a plague erupting or an asteroid plunging straight for us.
from the Trackers by Charles Frazier
Val has been hired by the Works Progress Administration to paint a mural on a newly built post office, art that reflected the history of the town. Val would show the people the importance of art and how it can inspire pride. He plans a scene of progression, showing the conquest of the West, with trackers in the center.
A local rancher offers Val a cabin, and friendship. John Long lucked out when he chose to inherit the ranchland that made him rich with oil wells and cattle. Stepping into Longâ€™s home, Val first sees a gallery of fine art. Then he meets Longâ€™s beautiful wife, Eve. She had been a singer with traveling band when they met. As a teenager, she was sent from home to find work, and she joined the company of hobos, traveling across the country. Long offered her comfort and wealth, but she bristled at being one more collected object, a trophy wife for Longâ€™s political aspirations.
Val dines with the Longs, is invited to go riding and on picnics. He meets Faro, a cowboy who had once known Billy the Kid. Long trusts Val enough that when Eve disappears, he hires him to track her down. But, he is not the only one on her trail.
The law was whoever had the most guns, same as it always was throughout history.
from The Trackers by Charles Frazier
Like all the best historical fiction novels, the past informs our present. â€śFor long stretches, you could believe we were still the imagined country whose overall movement was steadily and surely upward,â€ť Val thinks. He is a socialist whose artist hero is Diego Rivera who portrayed the works on Fordâ€™s assembly line and River Rouge factory on the walls of the Detroit Museum of Art. He believes that the Depression had revealed the fundamental flaws in the Constitution, allowing capitalism to have freewheeling control over the workers who are now organizing unions.
This historical backstory and political commentary is undergirded by the scaffold of a love story. Longâ€™s love for his wife feels like a love of possession, but Val has also fallen for Eve. When he finally finds her, he becomes compromised. Long has hired him to do a job, bring Eve back, but Val wants Eve, too. And then, the tracker becomes tracked as well.
This is a fantastic read, and I hope, will become a fantastic movie.
Val is being hosted by wealthy landowner and art lover, John Long and his wife Eve. The three begin having
As Val is nearing completion of his mural, Eve leaves home and Long enlists his help in trying to find her. It seems Eve has a somewhat shady past and Long needs to know if she was married and if her husband died or if he is still alive. Val ends up risking a lot to appease Long in finding Eve. There are several other stories at play that have an influence on the characters.
I found this to be somewhat of an odd story with odd characters, each of whom has a past that we may never fully know. I did enjoy Valâ€™s journey to find Eve.
I liked the story and Frazierâ€™s descriptive writing, but it was not my favorite of his novels. Readers who enjoy learning about the states and the depression-era life will enjoy this novel.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Ecco for allowing me to read an advance copy. I am happy to recommend this to readers and offer my honest review.
This book takes place in the mid-thirties, so the dust bowl era, well after Black Monday. There's a strange contrast between those who held onto their money and lives versus those who lost everything and are just trying to survive. Frazier does a fine job of painting small vignettes that drive those points home. He also utilizes the political scene of the time: Long is older and more conservative, possibly running for office, while Val is a recent college graduate and more inclined towards Roosevelt's New Deal policies.
I was more interested in the history than the actual plot of the relationships between Eve and Long, Faro, and Val. Frazier also chose a writing style without marking off dialogue using punctuation (I don't remember this in Cold Mountain and Varina, but then it didn't bother me much anyway).
If you're interested in history of this period, this is a great book to read.
Frazier's story is set during the
The story was excellent, well-crafted characters, perfectly plotted.
I found the beginning stages of The Trackers to be its most satisfying section. Frazier's writing style is very engaging, and Val's long musings and observations about the nature of the Depression and the damage it has done to millions of lives in the name of greed and irresponsibility I found very well done. Val's description of the Wyoming landscape and Eve's description of the horrors (and satisfactions) of her earlier life are all quite good. Another memorable character is Faro, the Long Shot's foreman who has a colorful and dangerous past of his own.
Once the plot line gets going, however, as Eve takes off with a small Renoir of her husband's to parts unknown and for reasons obscure, and Long hires Val to go find her, things begin to get a bit more pedestrian. The storyline stays engaging, and Frazier's writing overall remains strong, but I began to wonder what it was all for. Also the common trope of the innocent abroad, much less worldly than he believes himself to be and constantly in error, began to wear on me a bit. Time and again I would say to myself, "You know nothing, Jon Snow."*
However, I don't want to overemphasize the novel's faults. All and all I found it entertaining and fun, with some stretches of really lovely writing and a good if not particularly believable plot.
* Game of Thrones reference
The story moves from Wyoming, to Florida, to Seattle, and to San Francisco to dive bars, fancy hotels, and places in California. There are interesting characters along the way, a bit of humor, a believable plot, and a satisfying ending. All in all, a good read. (Liked it much better than Cold Mountain).