by James Lee Burke
Published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster.
Reviewed by Kendra Crispin.
How many writers can craft a story that spans well over a decade and hold reader’s interest? Apparently, James Lee Burke can when the protagonist-meet- Bonnie-and-Clyde, rescues a resourceful Jewish woman from a Nazi prison and then handles the intrigues of the booming Texas oil industry. From the opening line about bewildering seasons, we accompany Weldon Holland on a journey where hanging on to what’s right can mean breaking the law – especially when envious and powerful figures are determined to ruin what he built for himself through his own skill, intelligence, hard work, and honesty. Holland stands firm to his moral compass to protect his wife and his friend, fellow veteran Hershel Pine.
The ideas within resonate with the modern reader as Burke brings the 1940s to life (very vividly). Full of characters whose own moral compasses are either faulty or broken (if they exist at all) and showing the consequences when those in power hate anyone different, Wayfaring Stranger is a story that keeps readers coming back and then picks up the pace as the stakes are raised. It also reminds us that you cannot change anyone else, but sometimes your own example can encourage others to rise to their own best selves – even when the odds seem to spell your own doom.
I had never read Burke before, and I’m glad I got the chance to review his latest. He is an author I would like to meet and talk with – about the book and the era. I will definitely check out his other works as he impressed me with this novel.
Having three novels to revise didn’t stop Oregon transplant Kendra Crispin from starting a non-fiction project on Doctor Who for Camp NaNoWriMo. An alumna of UT-Austin and Norwich University (Vermont), she loves reading and hopes to soon see her own books being reviewed on this site.