At the end of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn , on the eve of the Civil War, Huck and Tom Sawyer decide to escape "sivilization" and "light out for the Territory." In Robert Coover's Huck Out West , also "wrote by Huck," the boys do just that, riding for the famous but short-lived Pony Express, then working as scouts for both sides in the war.Read more...
At the end of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, on the eve of the Civil War, Huck and Tom Sawyer decide to escape "sivilization" and "light out for the Territory." In Robert Coover's Huck Out West, also "wrote by Huck," the boys do just that, riding for the famous but short-lived Pony Express, then working as scouts for both sides in the war.
They are suddenly separated when Tom decides he'd rather own civilization than leave it, returning east with his new wife, Becky Thatcher, to learn the law from her father. Huck, abandoned and "dreadful lonely," hires himself out to "whosoever." He rides shotgun on coaches, wrangles horses on a Chisholm Trail cattle drive, joins a gang of bandits, guides wagon trains, gets dragged into U.S. Army massacres, suffers a series of romantic and barroom misadventures.
He is eventually drawn into a Lakota tribe by a young brave, Eeteh, an inventive teller of Coyote tales who "was having about the same kind of trouble with his tribe as I was having with mine." There is an army colonel who wants to hang Huck and destroy Eeteh's tribe, so they're both on the run, finding themselves ultimately in the Black Hills just ahead of the 1876 Gold Rush.
This period, from the middle of the Civil War to the centennial year of 1876, is probably the most formative era of the nation's history. In the West, it is a time of grand adventure, but also one of greed, religious insanity, mass slaughter, virulent hatreds, widespread poverty and ignorance, ruthless military and civilian leadership, huge disparities of wealth. Only Huck's sympathetic and gently comical voice can make it somehow bearable.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-09-26
- Reviewer: Staff
With gusto and a rollicking plot, Coover tackles the daunting task of crafting a sequel to a Mark Twain classic. Using a line from the original novels penultimate sentenceI got to light out for the Territory ahead of the restCoover (The Brunist Day of Wrath) takes Huck, the wide-eyed adventurer, to the Plains states, with much of the story set in Minnysota. Huck admits hes sometimes homesick for the Big River, but he rarely looks back, save for a passing reference that helps ground the reader. He and Tom ride for the Pony Express for a few years, before Tom leaves him to marry Becky Thatcher. Huck even has a surprise reunion with Jim, who has found Jesus, been freed from slavery, and is currently looking for the rest of his family. This is American Indian country, mostly Lakota but also Cherokee, the latter of whom Huck calls Southern gentlemen, living high off the hog. After Tom leaves, a savvy Union soldier named Dan Harper takes Huck under his wing, before he and his company are massacred by the Lakota. The characters are colorful, with names such as Pegleg, Yaller Whiskers, and Eyepatch. Huck finds love and theres the inevitable return of Tom, whose adult mischief is more sinister than his teen antics. A lively and fast-paced encore for a beloved American hero. (Jan.)