Saturday 19 February 2022

The Sharp Kid - David Vining

Crystal Embers
David Vining
ISBN 9798482518335

A few years back I read several works by David Vining. A number of collections of stories and a couple of novels. This is his latest offering. It took me some time to get started after I picked this up, but once I did, I could hardly put it down. It is a very melancholy story. It is in a classic Western style but has a dystopian feel. The description of the book is:

“1880s Missouri is a time of gangs and civilization, finding a way towards modernity through the old scars of the Civil War. 16 year old Cal Braden joins his absent father on a journey of train robbing with the promise of a new life further West in San Francisco. But promises are cheap, as cheap as iron, and it's a question of whether they'll ever be able to get out of the life of criminality they've decided to take up.”

The story in many ways made me thing back on the movie, Unforgiven, starring and directed by Clint Eastwood. It was a very atypical western and this is an atypical western story. One part of the movie has stayed with me for years:

““Well,” the Schofield Kid says toward the end, “I guess they have it coming” — meaning the bad guys, whoever they are this time. “We all have it coming, Kid,” Will Munny says, riding off to face a fate of his own.”

I would not recommend this book for younger readers, tweens and even some teens. But it is a book that could serve for great discussion among young adults and even among adult friends. A Catholic priest makes a brief appearance. And his role drastically changed where I though the story was going. 

This story is a western written true. Life was not easy, being a criminal was not easy. And some addictions once they have a hold of you will take everything you have. Young Cal follows his father. And soon his whole world is turned upside down. His moral compass is warped. He struggles with what he has done, and who he is becoming. He desires to end the cycle but gets sucked into something else. The question I wrestle with is did Cal get what was coming to him? 

Overall it is a sad tragic tale. But I believe one we can learn from. Father Giorgio’s appearance and interactions redeem much. If you enjoy Western’s and want one with a different twist this book is for you. If you just want a good book to read and maybe make you think, I assure you this book if for you. I cannot say I was blessed or even greatly enjoyed the story, but I did really appreciate it. Vining is coming into his own as a writer, his craft and skill growing, and this latest book is well written. 

Books by David Vining:
A Quest Through Winter Sleep
The Battle of Lake Erie: One Young American's Adventure in the War of 1812
Crystal Embers

The Sharp Kid

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