Monday, August 18, 2014

The Bully Of Order by Brian Hart

Brian Hart has written a novel about life in the Pacific Northwest as it is settled by Americans moving ever westward.  But this is not the west of Bonanza.  This is the west of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, of the west shown on the popular TV show, Hell On Wheels.  This is a west where life is cheap and death comes at the drop of a hat.

The Ellstrom brothers have come to make their fortune.  The town where they settle is built on lumber and the mill that planes the boards.  They also try farming, logging and even a trip to Alaska.  Each of the two brothers has a son and Jacob has a wife willing to live under the primitive conditions found there.  Life is hard and brutality reigns.  Those who are strongest and willing to take what they want gain the riches to be found.

A sudden act of violence and a dark family secret tears the Ellstrom family apart.  One son falls in love with the daughter of the mill's owner, and he is not about to have his child link up with a poor man.  The struggle over the woman leads to disastrous consequences and fuels the novel's action.

Hart has written a searing indictment of what it really meant to settle uncivilized areas and how the Northwest was really created.  It is a tale of violence and random kindnesses, of men and women fighting against the environment and often failing to connect with each other as the battle wore them out.  It is a stunning work and readers won't soon forget it.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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