The story in The Door That Faced West is a little known history that takes place in the American South as the 18th century ends and the 19th century begins. At the time the western frontier still occupied territory east of the Mississippi. It is a serial killer story that it is based on actual events. Although a character-driven fiction novel, it is also something like a true-crime book. Being from the POV of a young female character, it provides some education about the limitations on women's rights of the time. The story is an early Western, distinguished from traditional Westerns by the technology of the period. At the time firearms were single-shot weapons, and hand-to-hand combat was much more common.
In the beginning of the 19th century, the two murderous Harpe brothers (pronounced Harp), loyal to one another but violently at odds, go on a yearlong killing spree in the American frontier, dragging with them the three wives they share between them - women who form a triangle of dependency, loyalty, jealousy, hatred, betrayal, and love.
The Harpes are often considered America's first serial killers. They were land pirates who prowled the wilderness of Tennessee and Kentucky looking for victims. The story unfolds from the point of view of the brothers' third wife, Sadie Rice, a 16-year-old daughter of a minister. As she endures life on the trail in their company, she benefits from the Harpes' ability to defend their own with extreme violence. The deeper into the savage wilderness they travel, the more dependent upon the brothers she becomes. Too late she realizes that their capacity for violence is, in truth, a ravenous hunger.
©2014 Alan M. Clark (P)2015 Alan M. Clark
I have not read the print version.
The attack on Sadie Rice by her father was brutal in act and description.
The jailed Harp brothers and the hearing. Sadie's messing with her split nail was excruciating.
The interactions between Sadie and her grandson.
Colorful and very researched, I found myself exhausted at points by Sadie's life.
I read this book in print before I listened to it. I have to say that it was two different experiences, and both were wonderful. Occassionaly, I get excited about a piece of historical fiction. However, it is rare. Historical fiction needs to have a couple of very important pieces in place to hold my attention. First, it has to be about the people in that moment in history instead of about the history around the people. Second, it has to be written well enough that I believe in my experience in the skin of the characters. The Door that Faced West came up a solid 5 stars on both counts.
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