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Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke

Wayfaring Stranger (2014)

by James Lee Burke

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From the opening paragraph, the reader is drawn into the time and place in which the story is set. This is fine literature set in Louisiana and Texas during a time when lawlessness rules and rich folks have power beyond measure. Burke makes the reader feel as if he is in the story and living it with our hero, Weldon. The characters are well developed -- the bad guys are really bad and the good guys have immaculate integrity. Awesome book. I want more JLB. ( )
  buffalogr | Sep 23, 2016 |
"Sometimes your luck runs out and you have to accept that the life you planned is a dream written on water." I had never read anything by this author before and that was a big mistake. This was a wonderful thriller/family saga, but the best part about it was the author's use of the English language. The narrator was Weldon Holland who, when he was 16, encountered Bonnie and Clyde. This turned out to be an influential event in his life, although he thought of them as "people who had the cultural dimensions of a hangnail". Later, while fighting Nazis, Weldon and his friend Hershel Pine rescued Rosita Lowenstein from a death camp. Rosita was Jewish, and possibly also a communist, two characteristics that would eventually attract the attention of her husband Weldon's enemies. After Weldon and Hershel started an oil pipeline business they became embroiled with the dangerous Wiseheart family comprised of Dalton, his son Roy and Roy's wife Clara. Soon someone was out to destroy Weldon and would use any means available to do so.

The characters in this book were so rich. My only quibble was that Rosita was probably the weakest of the characters, known mostly by her flawlessness. As Weldon put it, "I had married a Jew who was a better Christian than I". Hershel was pathetically devoted to his childlike, selfish wife Linda Gail (who was not as hapless as she originally appeared). "The Greek tragedians viewed irony, not the stars, as the agency that shaped our lives." Weldon and Hershel became rich using "machines that made the tanks that tried to kill" them. Roy was an enigmatic figure who had "everything except the approval of his father and consequently seemed to value nothing". Hershel "possessed the chivalric virtues of an Arthurian knight". Clara "seemed governed day to day by the vindictive child living inside her."

I loved this book and the narration of the audiobook by Will Patton was perfection.

I received a free copy of the e-book from the publisher, however I wound up buying and listening to the audiobook version. ( )
  fhudnell | Aug 23, 2016 |
Awesome book. I love the depth of description that JLB extends with his writing. He is so detailed that you feel that you are there and can see everything. AND Will Patton as narrator is beyond compare. I am looking forward to the next book in this series! ( )
  AMKee | Aug 22, 2016 |
This is a top class book. A real page tuner set in late Nineteen Forties America. A book I would definitely read again. ( )
  dano35ie | Aug 14, 2016 |
I could read James Lee Burke's prose for a very long time without ever getting bored. In fact, although I call it prose, if it wasn't for the dark nature of his books, it could be poetry. His writing sings and worms its way into your heart.

This is not a Dave Robicheaux mystery and, at one point in my life, I would have felt that was a shame. Now that I have had a chance to read a few of JLB's non-Robicheaux books I find it hard to decide which I like better.

Weldon Avery Holland grew up in Texas on his grandfather's ranch. In 1934 he was 16 years old and Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow and two others hid out in the river bottom near the ranch house. Weldon said that Bonnie Parker was his first love but the last he saw of her was when he put a bullet through the stolen car Bonnie and Clyde were driving. That car was to play a part in a pivotal moment in Holland's life.

During World War II Holland and his sergeant, Hershel Pine, escaped death during the Battle of the Bulge although almost all of their company were killed. They ended up behind enemy lines and were the first Allied soldiers to enter a concentration camp just after the guards had left. They found one survivor, Rosita Lowenstein. After making their way back to friendly forces Rosita was sent one way and Holland and Pine another. Holland couldn't forget Rosita though and he managed to find her before he shipped back to the USA. They married in Paris and Rosita went to Texas with Holland. Sergeant Pine contacted Holland about a business deal involving using Nazi welding machines to join oil and gas pipelines. Together they made a lot of money but they earned enemies doing so. Some very nasty people tried to destroy Weldon Holland, Rosita Holland and Hershel PIne. It doesn't really spoil the book to say they didn't manage to do so. How close they came is the real story.

One of the things I love about JLB's writing is how he will take a pause in the action to describe a setting and you can almost see that spot. Here's an example from a time when Weldon and Rosita are trying to evade police:
Thirty miles from town, a fine mist began blowing out of the south, mixing with the dust, and the sun seemed to dull over and grow cold and smaller inside its own glow. Then a shadow moved across the entirety of the landscape like a shade being pulled down on a window. I turned off on a side road and drove down to a creek bed among a grove of cottonwoods whose limbs glistened with mist and were as pointed and stark as the tips on a deer's antlers. A ribbon of red water wound its way through the bottom of the creek, and I saw raindrops splashing in it like drops of lead.

Genius! ( )
  gypsysmom | May 17, 2016 |
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"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 sixteen-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"--… (more)

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