From "America’s best novelist" (The Denver Post): a sprawling thriller drenched with atmosphere and intrigue that takes a young boy from a chance encounter with Bonnie and Clyde to the trenches of World War II and the oil fields along the Texas-Louisiana coast.
It is 1934 and the Depression is bearing down when 16-year-old Weldon Avery Holland happens upon infamous criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow after one of their notorious armed robberies. A confrontation with the outlaws ends as Weldon puts a bullet through the rear window of Clyde’s stolen automobile. Ten years later, Second Lieutenant Weldon Holland and his sergeant, Hershel Pine, escape certain death in the Battle of the Bulge and encounter a beautiful young woman named Rosita Lowenstein hiding in a deserted extermination camp. Eventually, Weldon and Rosita fall in love and marry and, with Hershel, return to Texas to seek their fortunes. There, they enter the domain of jackals known as the oil business. They meet Roy Wiseheart - a former Marine aviator haunted with guilt for deserting his squadron leader over the South Pacific and Roy’s wife, Clara, a vicious anti-Semite who is determined to make Weldon and Rosita’s life a nightmare. It will be the frontier justice upheld by Weldon’s grandfather, Texas lawman Hackberry Holland, and the legendary antics of Bonnie and Clyde that shape Weldon’s plans for saving his family from the evil forces that lurk in peacetime America and threaten to destroy them all.
©2014 James Lee Burke. All rights reserved. (P)2014 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
Wow this book was great. I found myself holding my breath several times during the last two hours. The ending was awesome. The ending was the best ending of any of Burke's books. Whew!
I'm a big fan of Burke. His Robicheaux series is great, and "The Lost Get-Back Boogie" is one of my favorite books of all times by any author.
Wayfaring Stranger though, is different and better than most of his previous. It feels like Burke stretched during this book and it paid off.
The amazing level of detail that Burke usually brings was all there: descriptions of the scenery, the smells, the appearance of the different characters so you feel like you are there. And it's done with a poetry and smoothness that is beautifully artful.
The cadence, the twists, and the unexpected turns that made me hold my breath were what took this story to the next level. I was on the edge of my seat for so much of this book that it almost felt exhausting. I'm sad it's over.
The one thing that makes this store only "near perfect" for me was the character of Linda Gail. I didn't like her. I probably wasn't suppose to like her, but she was in the story a lot and a couple times I wished he would get back to Weldon and Rosita and Hershel, because she just wasn't very interesting to me.
Will Patton is flawless as usual. He and Burke make the perfect pair. I think as Audible listeners we get a bonus over reading this book, Patton makes the whole experience just that much better. .
A few must reads: Mr. Mercedes, Narrows Gate, Cop Town, Bomb Proof, Wayfaring Stranger, The Son (Nesbo), Dept Q series...
The combination of Burke and Patton is without peer. Personally I favor his Hackberry Holland series. This tale involves a cousin of the infamous sherif of Rain Gods.
When I listen to Burke, his attention to landscape and remarkably eloquent descriptions of people, time and space, I find myself wondering if I am taking the natural beauty of my own surroundings for granted. I live in a beautiful city and state, but when I try to describe it, I find myself at a loss for words. Burke's words bring out the beauty and grace of places, and then delivers the impact from their desecration by industry.
I read where a single, significant event in her childhood helped Flannery OConnor develop her genius in writing. Burke uses such an event in the life of his hero, Weldon Holland at age 16 to help define his character with his run in with Bonnie and Clyde. It's brilliant.
This is great tale worth our time. Do not pass this one up.
I just about read it straight through. Finally stopped to sleep a few hours. I have read all of Burke's books. Having lived in Louisiana and Texas all my life, he always writes so beautifully of our culture and way of life.This is possibly one of Burke's best.
First, I listened to Lay Down My Shield. It was a shocking departure for James Lee Burke, the character of Hackberry Holland two dimensional and unlikable. The I read Feast Day of Fools. Not sure where that Hackberry fits in, but he was slightly better.
Now, Wayfaring Stranger featuring Weldon Holland. And I think I'm done with the Hollands. I love Burke's Dave Robichaeux series, gorgeous prose, tight plotting, and fully developed characters, the master at his best. At the end of Glass Rainbow, I sobbed as I'd lost my best friend, so great was the impact of the book.
The Holland series is another matter. Weldon is another two dimensional Holland, all brass and balls, but not too smart. His motivations are superficial in a macho kind of way.
Similarly Rosita Lowenstein seems more of a plot device than a real character. And don't get me started on Linda Gail! Are we supposed to believe in this woman who places her husband's well being in the hands of her lover as if he had any responsibility? Clara is a caricature. Roy too, is improbable, but a bit more believable as a spoiled rich kid, although that's a stereotype too.
The plot is just a bit too convenient too, the Nazi film reels in particular. The Bonnie & Clyde thing seems more of a publicity stunt, a way to gin up interest in the book, rather than an integrated aspect of the plot.
Finally, the master's prose seemed overheated in this one. The superficial Holland is presented as quite the philosopher and astute political observer. And he does quite a bit of it too, offering up dissertations on everything from the meaning of life to ecological disasters.
It grieves me to post such a review of James Lee Burke's work, I hope he'll write more books that don't contain any Hollands.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
Over time I've really come to admire James Lee Burke and his writing style. I love his big, flawed characters and their insights about life. The dialogue is crafty and always spot on. In each of his books, I just settle in for the ride and am completely engrossed in the story. This particular book does all that x10.
He made me care so much about the characters that I'm still thinking about them a day after I finished the book. I can't get started on another because I want to know what's happening with Weldon. I loved the strength and dignity he gave to Rosita and the level of respectfulness with which he told her story. These people came and lived with me while I listened to this book and now I miss them.
I always love the attention to detail Burke gives to place and time. I don't know that I've ever had a better glimpse of post-WWII Texas and the heady, reckless oil boom. And it's not just that you can see all of it. Rather, you can feel all of it - the heat, the excitement, the hope and the despair.
I'm not sure this book would have the same impact without Will Patton's impeccable narration. No one does it better. He deserves all the awards there are to give.
This is probably the most important book Burke has written to date. It is literature at its best. As much as I appreciate all his highly underrated work, this one far surpasses even Tin Roof Blow Down, which, was in my personal opinion, his best. Before that, Confederate Mist. This is not to say his other works do not pierce the psyche of his characters. They do. But this work is far different. More personal. It comes from his very soul. His treatment of the Hollands is even more complex than our old friend Dave. His theme of human fallibility, sin and redemption is profound.
Will Patton’s narration is, as usual, masterful. His voice flows seamlessly as he navigates the changing characters and moods. Excellent! Audie material, IMO.
In my three particular favorites, I sensed a unique connection between Burke and the characters. Wayfaring Stranger leaves the other two in the dusty roadside. This is not because of his obvious respect and love and admiration of the actual Weldon, but how Burke got into his head and heart more deeply than in any other work. He did his cousin Weldon and many other WWII hero soldiers (my dad included) proud. They are/were all heroes, as much as one of my friends, who at fifteen, led her mother out of Austria and Germany in 1939. We cannot imagine the dread she felt as she led her mother through a snow-laden forest from Cologne to the Belgian border. It took five attempts to make the escape.
My friend, thanks be to God, was never sent to a Camp, but she was molested by Nazi soldiers. I thought of her as we followed Rosita’s journey. Burke has always respected women in his books, and portrayed them elegantly. Within this work he continues with his female characters portrayed as strong and brave and intelligent.
Rosita is the best of the best, the bravest of the brave. She is brilliant and gutsy and beautiful. I have noticed, within the last three or four works women are represented stronger and stronger, and Burke has given them a more prominent role. This was also the most profound love story he has written to date.
I could go on and on and on. There’s no need. This is a masterpiece. If Burke never wrote another book, he could rest his reputation on this one. That statement does not, however, give him license to retire. I hunger for his next.
If you are a JLB fan w/ Will Patton as Nar. than you get the draw of the coupling!!! If not, well , you havent istened enough. Burke is by far the king of is style and Patton has the voice to capure what this novel, witch leaves you wanting more, takes you to, a time past that is not flatering but so real you can taste it.
it is flawless through every transition, never forced or off beat, Perfect timing.
The wink. It is the tread that runs true through the entire book, or the meaning of it anyway.
Yes and I did.
Once again we get to see reality through the eyes of a master story teller and word smith, that has the abiliy to make one feel every emoition God gave us, in spades. Thank you Mr Burke and Mr Patton for a wonderful day.
I think James Lee Burke is in a very small category of elite contemporary fiction writers with the likes of Adrian McKinty, Michael Gruber, and Nelson DeMille. There's nothing about this effort that makes me think differently. The writing is excellent. The story is good. The characters are mostly what I've come to expect from this author. And Will Patton is the ideal choice to narrate James Lee Burke. He does not disappoint.
Still, Burke's books tend to be very dark, peppered with philosophical ruminations about the essence and manifestations of evil. So it was with this one. What was missing for me was the comic relief from the constant barrage of depressing events, recollections, and story twists that a character like Cletus provides in the Dave Robicheaux series.
So hooked by audio that I have to read books aloud. *If my reviews help, please let me know.
It's Burke therefore it's great. He is one of those authors that has to be placed in a different league, one a few steps higher, like a handicap in golf -- he's just that professional and good with his craft. I've read almost everything he's written; even his books I didn't initially like I have looked back over. I appreciate them more the longer I read, and the more I read. I've not liked some stories, not cared about the subject matter, but I've never been disappointed with the quality of writing or the power of the story. Burke is a phenomenon; a class act, taking on stories of oppression, corruption, and integrity, with larger-than-life characters that seem charged with the iconic traits we all associate with heroes and scoundrels. In many ways, I enjoy him as much as I enjoy McCarthy (though I don't know if you can use *McCarthy* and *enjoy* in the same sentence). His style is identifiable within the first paragraph of any of his books, and always makes me feel like sitting down, once again, with an old very good friend.
Wayfaring Stranger seemed a bit of a departure from Burke's usual crime fiction format. Weldon Holland (who can trace his geneology back to the Hackberry Holland familiar to hard core Burke fans) is a more solitary introspect character than Robicheaux or Holland cousins Billy Bob and Hackberry. Weldon's early memories of a chance encounter with infamous crime partners Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow impacts his life and stays with him through his adulthood, an encounter that reaches into his future to come full circle.
The book covers the fascinating period of time in America after WWII, including the politics and anti-Semitism following the war. It was a time when simple investors became powerful tycoons, when mobsters like Bugsy Siegel rubbed elbows with powerful movie studio moguls, and when Hollywood had the power to make starlets out of girls they discovered at soda fountains -- or break them. And Burke wraps it into a neat circular story.
The story is rich and layered with themes and history, and Burke's writing is as polished and lush as ever, yet, I missed the sparring I've come to love so much from Burke's characters. I miss the white hat morality taking on a barrage of smart-ass comments from the black hats; that back and forth volley between two polar characters that were equally matched. These characters were dynamic, but dark, without much, if any, humor. It's a fine book in every sense, but my personal tastes (regarding Burke's books) have been spoiled by the usual dark story highlighted with a sprinkle of wisdom and copious amounts of witty repartee in his previous novels...thus my 3* for what is probably a 4* book.
I have either read or listened to ever work of this author. I am constantly put off by his negative view of humanity. Yet I keep coming back, because he is such a magnificent writer.
He spends the time setting the scenes, developing the characters, that most don't.
Add to that some mysticism and poeticism.
If you want a dark theme, fleshed out characters, protagonists with a slight hint of redemption in the end, JLB is the master of his genre.
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