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The Texicans by Nina Vida
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The Texicans

by Nina Vida

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"The Texans" is not politically correct, is dirty and raw and presents history through the confluence of a Jewish cowboy, a runaway slave, a German emigrant, a Mexican girl, renegade Rangers, and lots of Commanches. There are no real heroes, but a number of villains; yet, the story manages to produce a deeply satisfying emotional impact. These people laid the foundation of Texas.

The character of Katrin, the German emigrant, was especially interesting. Thrust into circumstances beyond her control, she adapts why still remaining so rigid in many ways. When asked if what she and her husband had accomplished would matter in the long run, she replied "You have to think on what we do today and whether we do it right. That's all we can do."

If you enjoy American historical fiction that isn't "sanitized" for today's world, you will enjoy this read. Also, for a similar read with lots of humor but an interesting look at US in the 1800's try Turpentine: A Novel. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 17, 2013 |
Interesting read. Being from Texas, you would think I know my Texas history fairly well. I don't. ( )
  lesmel | Jun 3, 2013 |
Reason for Reading: I love reading about the time period and the subject matter.

This is an epic drama of settlers struggling to settle in Texas during the years 1840 to 1854. What makes this book stand out from the rest is the characters. Rather than the usual group of white European settlers Vida has cast her tale with peoples who make an unusual yet enthralling story. Each having their own story, until they come together as a group of settlers, are a Polish Jew, an Alsace German, a runaway slave, a paid for slave family, a Mexican woman who may be a witch and her half white daughter. This group of people join and grow together in an emotionally strong bond and face the brutality of the Comanches, Rangers, weather and racism.

I was truly hooked with this book from the first chapter. Each character is introduced separately before becoming part of the group and while the story is told in the third person we are shown the story from various character's perceptions along the way. This is one of the most amazing group of settlers I have read about and I appreciate the insight into the story of the peoples often overlooked in telling of the settling of Texas. Character was everything for me in this book. I felt as if I knew them and certain events were emotionally disturbing because of that.

The plot itself is tremendous. What starts out as one man's journey, and a selfish man at that, turns into an almost Christian allegory of the downtrodden following the Jew believing he will save them and lead them home. He does ... partially, but he is *not* the Saviour. Instead it becomes a voyage of many souls and it is the weak and downtrodden that bring the selfishness out of the man, though unbeknownst to him, and very slowly, by the end of the book, he has been changed, just enough, by the events of his journey and by the people who love him, those whom he met along that journey. I could not put this book down! I even read at the table! Ultimately, a fierce new version of the Western with a bittersweet ending. ( )
  ElizaJane | Apr 27, 2010 |
Joseph Kimmel is a simple man, a man as content as a fur trapper as he is as a school teacher, a man who has never longed for the encumbrances of a wife and family. He is pleased to be without any obligation except to himself, that is, until a letter arrives in June of 1845 from Joseph's brother's business partner in Texas announcing his brother's death and extolling the virtues of Texas. Soon he sheds his humdrum life as a schoolteacher and sets out for Texas to settle his brother's estate and perhaps find some free land and adventure along the way. Suffice it to say that Joseph gets far more than he bargained for.

Robbed of his horse by an escaped slave, Joseph is discovered by one Henry Castro, a Frenchman determined to create a town of his own in Texas using sheer force of will and a pack of ignorant Alsatian settlers who he has convinced to come along for the ride. That's when things begin to get out of hand. Without intending to, Joseph stays a few years in Castroville and leaves with a wife he never intended to have and doesn't love as well as the very escaped slave that stole his belongings and landed him Castroville to begin with. As he travels across Texas in search of land and a relatively safe place to settle, Joseph finds himself "encumbered" with more and more people including another ex-slave with only one leg and his family as well as the intoxicating Aurelia, who is rumored to be a Mexican witch. After making a fragile peace with the local indian tribe, Joseph and his adopted family settle down to a life of ranching, but life on the frontier is fraught with dangers and tragedy will ultimately shape the lives of those that Joseph has learned to hold dear.

The Texicans is a well-written novel populated by a wide variety of quite three dimensional characters. The main characters, especially Joseph and Aurelia, the Mexican "witch," are believable and sympathetic. While reading this story, I kept envisioning Joseph as a John Wayne-esque sort of a character, a quiet loner of a guy, strong, competent, and independent but with a heart of gold that prevents him from casting off his unwanted entourage. His circumstances bring out a sort of begrudging heroism hidden behind his stony exterior. Aurelia's story brings out just the slightest bit of magical realism in a tale that mostly consists of a simple, hardscrabble existence in frontier Texas. The frontier itself is as much a character as the rest, casting the human characters in sharp relief against itself and shaping each of them with its power.

Vida has created a quiet story and one in which the characters only slowly make their way into your heart, and you only realize how deeply you care for them when tragedy strikes. Somehow, though, I didn't quite connect with it. There were a few times when I thought maybe I was making a connection, but they were short-lived. Perhaps it was the mood I was in when I read it or that the story seemed to peter out more than it seemed to definitively end. The epilogue seems almost tacked on as an afterthought to bring closure to a story so realistic that real closure is impossible. This is a novel that has very little artistically wrong with it, but one that, for me, failed to make the leap from a good story to a great one. ( )
1 vote yourotherleft | Sep 13, 2009 |
THE TEXICANS tells the story of people trying to make it in Texas not long after it becomes a state. Aurelia, a Mexican with healing powers and Joseph, a Jew who comes to settle his brother's estate after his death are the main focus of the story but their are many more interesting characters that make appearances in this book. Their are runaway slaves, the Texas Rangers and settlers, and of course the Comanches and Tonkaways whose lands are being taken over by the settlers.

Nina Vida presents the stories very well and the lives they must have led in mid 19th century Texas. Joseph's journey is the most interesting and best portrayed. I think if the story was more about him only it would have been an even better read. Aurelia's story was okay, but in the end I didn't see a reason for its inclusion. I kept expecting more of a connection between the two, a romance that never occurred. I felt sorry for the two's hard life, which I am sure was more realistic to the time, but I would have liked another ending.

It was an enjoyable tale, well written and set in an interesting time. ( )
  maribs | Aug 24, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 156947477X, Paperback)

“A completely engaging tale following a handful of remarkable settlers.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Lively. . . . Vivid characters. . . . Enthralling reading.”—The Miami Herald

“Compelling. . . . That Vida brings so much fresh energy to the timeworn Western genre—complex characters, engaging stories, cutting-edge historical revisionism—is no small feat.”—Austin American-Statesman

“An imaginative and thoroughly researched tale driven by intriguing characters.”—Denver Post

“Should be placed on the same shelf with Lonesome Dove, Texas, and Pale Horse, Pale Rider.”—The Monitor (Texas)

When cholera strikes San Antonio in 1843, Aurelia Ruiz discovers that she might have the power to heal—and also to curse. Meanwhile, Joseph Kimmel, a schoolteacher in Missouri and the son of a Polish Jew, learns of his brother’s death in San Antonio and sets off for Texas. On his way, a runaway slave steals his horse. After being rescued by Henry Castro, a man who is importing immigrants to populate his planned city, Castroville, Joseph agrees to marry a young Alsatian girl to save her from a Comanche chief who has demanded her. Then Joseph encounters Aurelia and becomes enamored with her.

Comanches, Tonkaways, Mexican vaqueros, immigrant farmers, and runaway slaves all play a part in Joseph’s rebirth as a rancher, but when a renegade band of Texas Rangers descends upon the ranch, everything changes.

Nina Vida is the author of six previous novels: Scam, Return from Darkness, Maximillian’s Garden, Goodbye Saigon, Between Sisters, and The End of Marriage. She lives with her husband in Huntington Beach, California.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:55 -0400)

"When cholera strikes San Antonio in 1843, Aurelia Ruiz discovers that she might have the power to heal and also to curse. She definitely has the power to attract men. Is she a witch, a bruja?" "Meanwhile, Joseph Kimmel, son of a Polish Jew, who has been teaching school in Missouri, learns of his brother's death in San Antonio and sets off for the Republic of Texas. On the way he encounters Luck, a runaways slave who robs him, and is rescued and befriended by Henry Castro, who is importing immigrants to populate his planned city, Castroville." "At Castro's urging, Joseph reluctantly agrees to marry a young Alsatian girl to save her from a Comanche chief who has demanded her. Then Joseph encounters Aurelia and becomes obsessed with her." "Comanches, Tonkaways, Mexican vaqueros, immigrant farmers and runaway slaves play a part in Joseph's rebirth as a rancher. But when a renegade band of Texas Rangers descends upon the ranch, everything is altered."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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