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The Whip by Karen Kondazian
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The Whip (2012)

by Karen Kondazian

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This is a fiction book based on a true story. Charley Parkhurst (born Charlotte) was a stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo and lived as a man for many years (with a few forays into the world of women). Loss seems to be the theme of this story.

Charlotte was given to an orphanage as an infant. She found a protector in another orphan named Lee, but a new owner separates the two and rules abusively. In an attempt to teach Charlotte a lesson, she places her in the stables with Jonas. Jonas teaches Charlotte the ways of horses. Eventually, Charlotte moves away and takes servant jobs to make her living. While in Rhode Island, she falls in love with a former slave and bears him a daughter. A jealous Lee gets a group of men together to attack the family, resulting in the death of man and daughter.

After a period of mourning, Charlotte becomes Charley and auditions for a job as a stagecoach driver as a way to follow Lee to California--hoping to enact revenge. Charley manages to live for many years in the guise of a man. She takes in Anna and her daughter Tonia but finds that she is so convincing that Anna has fallen in love with her and does not understand why Charley doesn't reciprocate. At the same time, Edward has guessed Charley's secret and the two begin a clandestine relationship that spans Charley in both male and female roles--until Charley discovers Edward's secret.

Lee, meanwhile, has become a gun for hire. His path crosses Charley's on a gold run and sets in motion events that lead to both Tonia's and his own deaths as well as Anna leaving Charley.

I did not like the crassness used to discuss Charley's "love life". ( )
  JenniferRobb | Oct 15, 2017 |
A really wonderfully written book that is usually not within the genre of my preference. However I very much enjoyed the character and the way the author portrayed her life and transformation into a man but yet still at her core a woman. A great lesson in life, love, racism, hardships of the old West, and the unforeseen consequences of life choices. ( )
  Blooshirt | Sep 15, 2017 |
First of all, before I get into the review, I have to point out that The Whip is an honest to gosh, cross my fingers, true story. It’s based on the life of Charley Parkhurst, a young woman who, following the death of her husband and child, spent much of the 19th century tracking down their murder . . . as a man.

This is an authentic old west tale, complete with a lynching, stagecoach chases, gun fights, and more. It’s the story of a woman who is so successful at being a man, not only is she allowed to vote (oh, the horror – LOL!), but she successfully takes her secret to the grave – or so close that it doesn’t really matter. There are, admittedly, some liberties taken with her story, but more to flesh out the grey areas than to significantly alter or misrepresent anything about her. That’s an important distinction to make, because she is most definitely not your typical heroine. In fact, at times, she is downright nasty.

Reading Charley’s story, you really get a sense of what life was like for a young, widowed woman in 19th century America. In hindsight, it’s all too easy to see her as a kind of social rebel, a precursor to the feminist movement of the mid 20th century, but the truth is she was guided by two things – the need to survive, and the desire to avenge her family – and advancing women’s rights wasn’t one of them. Charley’s life was a difficult one, both before and after losing her family, with one obstacle after another forced into her path. I daresay most men wouldn’t have been able to continue under such conditions!

The early scenes at the orphanage, with the cruel headmistress and boy-cum-monster are a bit over-the-top, but not so much as to detract from the overall story. They really help to set up Charley as a young (wo)man with potential, while her budding romance with an African American blacksmith is a nice touch, further establishing her as an early outsider.

I must say, Charley’s transformation certainly doesn’t paint the men of the time in a very flattering light, but it’s honest and down-to-earth. It’s about more than just dressing the part – it’s about walking the walk, talking the talk, and acting the role 24X7. She learns to smoke, chew tobacco, cuss, and fight with the best of them, but to Kondazian’s credit, she never comes across as some ‘butch’ character – we know there’s a woman at the heart of Charley, but the necessities of life dictate a different path.

Very well-written, this has the feel of something like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven – a raw, realistic, powerful western that stays well away from the spaghetti roots. ( )
  bibrarybookslut | Jul 5, 2017 |
This book, inspired by the real life story of Charlie Parkhurst, reads like a novel, yet you can’t stop thinking that it could actually be Charlie’s story. Kondazian’s descriptive style makes the reader feel they are right in the center of the action. After finishing The Whip, I was left with a sense of loss that we will never really know the truth of Charlie’s story. But her story in The Whip is so real that I let myself be almost-convinced. I loved this book and read it in record time. Kondazian knows how to weave a great story and I do hope she finds another intriguing person to write about soon. I’ll definitely be recommending this one to all my reader friends. ( )
  LindaSThompson | Jun 6, 2017 |
What am I? Am I a book about the old west and the life of a Whip? (A Whip is a stagecoach diver.) Am I a book about a woman who lived her life as a man and occasionally struggles with feminine desires long repressed? I don't know. Maybe I'll be both!

This book would have been much better if the author would have decided which aspect of Charlie Parkhurst's life to focus upon, but alas that was not to be so.

If you are looking for historical fiction which imagines what life for a woman might have been like in the mid-1800's, you sort of get that here, although much could have been covered about women's struggles, expectations on women, women who overcame those odds, and more. It's just not there.

If you are looking for historical fiction which delves into the life of a whip, helping you understand the wagon-driver life, the challenges of driving a team of horses, life on the run (literally), the life of a pulling horse, and other such questions, you get a taste, not much more.

Clearly I am in the minority with my disappointment over this book. There are so many glowing reviews, it's won awards, the author is a talented and gifted actress. Still, I came away wanting more. Much more. ( )
  BrannonSG | Oct 7, 2016 |
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For my mother Lillian Marie and my father Varnum Paul . . . for giving me the resources to find my way in this world, for helping me to understand, as Charley Parkhurst did, what one must sacrifice to embrace a life of freedom.
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He looked like a craggy yellow toothed god.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
The Whip is a multi-award winning novel inspired by the true story of a woman, Charlotte “Charley” Parkhurst (1812-1879) who lived most of her extraordinary life as a man in the old west. As a young woman in Rhode Island, she fell in love with a runaway slave and had his child. The destruction of her family drove her west to California, dressed as a man, to track the killer.

Charley became a renowned stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo. She killed a famous outlaw, had a secret love affair, and lived with a housekeeper who, unaware of her true sex, fell in love with her. Charley was the first known woman to vote in America in 1868 (as a man). Her grave lies in Watsonville, California.

AWARDS:
2014 Readers Favorite- Gold Medal Prize -Winner Best Western Fiction
2013 International Book Award- first place -Winner Best Western Fiction,
2013 National Indie Excellence Award -first place-Best Western fiction
2013 Global Ebook Awards first place-Winner Best Historical Fiction
2012 USA Best Book Award- first place- Winner Best Western Fiction

First Place Goodreads Contest: "Best Book to be made into a Film"
"Top 12 Best Western Books"--Goodreads Contest
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Devastated by the murder of her husband and daughter, Charlotte Parkhurst, disguised as a man, gets a job as a "whip," or stagecoach driver, so she can follow her family's killer to California. She goes on to become one of the most well-known and respected whips in California, revealing her gender to almost no one.… (more)

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Karen Kondazian is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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