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Lost Nation: A Novel by Jeffrey Lent
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Lost Nation: A Novel (edition 2003)

by Jeffrey Lent (Author)

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3611156,636 (3.88)21
Lost Nation delves beneath the bright, promising veneer of early-nineteenth-century New England to unveil a startling parable of individualism and nationhood. The novel opens with a man known as Blood, guiding an oxcart of rum toward the wild country of New Hampshire, an ungoverned territory called the Indian Stream -- a land where the luckless or outlawed have made a fresh start. Blood is a man of contradictions, of learning and wisdom, but also a man with a secret past that has scorched his soul. He sets forth to establish himself as a trader, hauling with him Sally, a sixteen-year-old girl won from the madam of a brothel over a game of cards. Their arrival in the Indian Stream triggers an escalating series of clashes that serves to sever the master/servant bond between them, and offers both a second chance with life. But as the conflicts within the community spill over and attract the attention of outside authorities, Blood becomes a target to those seeking easy blame for theirtroubles. As plots unravel and violence escalates, two young men of uncertain identity appear, and Blood is forced to confront dreaded apparitions of his past, while Sally is offered a final escape.… (more)
Member:Haven2
Title:Lost Nation: A Novel
Authors:Jeffrey Lent (Author)
Info:Grove Press (2003), Edition: First Trade Paper, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:Historical, Fiction

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Lost Nation by Jeffrey Lent

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I loved the first two novels I had read by Jeffrey Lent and was looking forward to this one, too. It certainly did not disappoint! It's one of those books that I almost hated to have end. As soon as I finished it, I downloaded the rest of Lent's works to my kindle. He has become one of my favorite authors.

Lost Nation is set in a territory between New Hampshire and Canada in the early 19th century--a territory claimed by both nations. The novel begins with a mysterious man named Blood guiding an ox-driven cart full of merchandise (most notably rum and lead). He's looking for a place to settle, a likely place where he can set up a tavern and live a quiet life. His other piece of merchandise is Sally, a fifteen-year old prostitute that he bought after winning at cards. Even though Sally knows what her job at the tavern will be, she is optimistic, and both she and Blood believe that her life will be better than anything she has known before. Blood chooses a northern community that has been settled by both French Canadians and Americans. His business ventures do well, and he becomes accepted by his neighbors as an honest and thoughtful, if somewhat enigmatic, overly-cautious man. But these are troubling times, and as much as Blood wants to stay removed from political conflicts, he feels obliged to tell the truth and to help his neighbors--and these good intentions eventually get him into trouble. Of course, the reader (and everyone in the story) suspect that Blood has secrets in his past, secrets that he is running from, and when we learn of them, they are heartbreaking--as is Blood's inability to shrug off his guilt.

As usual, Lent's writing is beautiful, his plot stunning, and his characters unique and memorable. Blood seems like a hard man initially, but even as he exploits Sally, he develops a relationship with her that shows his deep sense of responsibility; their friendship, tinged with mistrust, is one of the best aspects of the novel. I loved the realistic portrayal of the hard life these New England settlers lived, and I learned a lot about the history of the period, especially the conflicts between the Americans and the Canadians, British, and Native Americans. The conclusion at first seems surprising, then feels both inevitable and right. In short, I loved this book! ( )
  Cariola | Dec 29, 2018 |
This book seemed to mutate as I read. At first, it was about a man, Blood, going into the wilderness with only his dog and a prostitute, Sally, that he won in a poker game. Then it's a story about the same man trying to make a life for himself as a tavern owner in the late 1800s in a territory sandwiched between New Hampshire and Canada and belonging to neither. Then it becomes about this same man running away from a horrible thing he has done in his life. Then, finally, it is about how the man reconciles with his grown children and faces his past. Each of these plot threads could be enough to sustain a whole novel on its own, but somehow in Lost Nation, the author has managed to bring these threads together.

I think thematically, the thing that brings all of these disparate threads together is the question of how much agency one has in their own lives to determine how they live, both as to the place and style in which they choose to live as well as what kind of values they want to bring or how they want to interact with other people.

The only portion of this book that I have some disagreement with is the Epilogue. I go back in forth in my mind as to whether I enjoyed the one last glimpse of one of the characters, to learn how it all turned out, or whether this ending took away from the ending, which left the situation on a much more questionable note. However, I also found myself thinking about this Epilogue after I had finished the book, wondering if it was a signal that my focus should have been on a different character the whole time.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about man's interaction with nature and anyone who enjoys historical fiction, as well as anyone who enjoys reading about characters struggling with large philosophical questions. ( )
  elmoelle | Aug 9, 2013 |
One begins to see a pattern in Jeffrey Lent. Prior to "Lost Nation," he brought out a masterpiece, "In the Fall." Each of these is an epic multi-generational drama ("Lost Nation" deals with subsequent generations only in a postlude), each concerns itself with violent men in warlike, bloody activity, and each portrays men who have eroded themselves, ruined themselves with ancient guilt.

"Lost Nation" refers not only to a territory in the far north of New Hampshire which is orphaned between the U.S. and Canada in the early 19th century, but more importantly to the life which our protaganist, named Blood, has lost, or rather, has avoided living. We find Blood, this fugitive from his own life, and the young and clever whore Sally, newly arriving in the Indian Streams area of New Hampshire. He is running from a version of himself with which he cannot live. It's tragic, in the strictest classical definition, what the delusional Blood believes of himself. His undying effort to leave his past behind is the energy behind the narrative. But in the thematic words of the untutored Sally, "It's the big lies that aren't worth it."

Lent informs his language deeply with the primitive country, the backwardness, the courage, and the brutality of the early backwoods trappers and settlers. The laconic speech of his characters, the unadorned descriptions of nature, livestock, and wild animals, the straightforward portayal of murder, betrayal, and butchery - this plain approach to the telling paradoxically elevates the narrative by just letting it do its monumental job. And it is a monumental job. I don't think Lent ever will want to write of small or subtle issues, or if he does, I'm sure his language will be adapted to the job. I think the world of this writer.

Something I found myself considering: what are the demands of blood? It requires vengeance where needed, loyalty of family always, an outlet when riled, and always a full reckoning. Blood the character insists on excoriating himself on the basis of his family history. When he discovers that his sons have found him, it's too late. He's too much at odds with the world - he has no route to reconciliation, even if he does imagine how it might be. It looks to me like Mr. Lent wanted to consider how blind and wasteful such an emotional approach to life can be. And since it's Jeffrey Lent, we get gorgeous language and unforgettable characters, acting on an epic stage.

Get ready for watershed events in lives that are a struggle. Men and women strive against nature, hostile natives, each other, but most notably themselves. Lent sees clearly into the nature of things, here as elsewhere. This is his great strength - that and the skill to set it down and take the lucky reader on very, very memorable journeys. Don't waste time; if you haven't taken this one up, don't delay! ( )
3 vote LukeS | Jun 22, 2009 |
Lost Nation is a gritty, gripping historical fiction read. I could not put it down, because I had to know the fate of the characters and the end of the story. Jeffrey Lent is an amazing word wrangler, particularly in describing the natural beauty and unforgiving harshness of the land. He very successfully transported me to the hills of New England in the 1830's and created complex characters that I will remember for a long time. I did not care for the ending of the story, and I wish some of the more brutal, harsh images he created were not in my head, but I am glad to have read this book. I look forward to reading In the Fall, because I already miss his prose. ( )
1 vote readaholic12 | Jan 27, 2009 |
Another excellent novel from Jeffery Lent -- for the life of me, I can't figure out why his novels do not receive more notice. This is the story of a mysterious wanderer, known only as Blood, who shows up in wild country between New Hampshire proper and Canada in the early 1800's. Carrying only a wagon load of rum barrels and a teenage girl won in a card game in a brothel, Blood carves out a tenuous life for himself and Sally amidst trouble from Indians, the New Hampshire authorities, and his own past.

This novel is more plot driven than Lent's gorgeous first, 'In the Fall.' I wasn't as blown away by the prose this time yet still it is quite well-written. You feel the dirt and smoke in your eyes, smell the horse-flesh and the rummy breath of the men, the stench of the fur hides, hear the sharp retort of a rifle shot -- very evocative yet really no long descriptive passages. I enjoyed Sally's character - her resilence and maturation -- though not quite sure I understood some of her final actions.

Lent has away of creating an exquisite sense of character and place interwoven with shocking scenes of violence and hearbreak, reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy. I really enjoyed this and will continue to read whatever this unappreciated author writes. Anyone who enjoys McCarthy, Charles Frazier, Jane Smiley, even Faulkner should give this a try. Suberb literary historical fiction set in early America. ( )
2 vote jhowell | Nov 18, 2008 |
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Lost Nation delves beneath the bright, promising veneer of early-nineteenth-century New England to unveil a startling parable of individualism and nationhood. The novel opens with a man known as Blood, guiding an oxcart of rum toward the wild country of New Hampshire, an ungoverned territory called the Indian Stream -- a land where the luckless or outlawed have made a fresh start. Blood is a man of contradictions, of learning and wisdom, but also a man with a secret past that has scorched his soul. He sets forth to establish himself as a trader, hauling with him Sally, a sixteen-year-old girl won from the madam of a brothel over a game of cards. Their arrival in the Indian Stream triggers an escalating series of clashes that serves to sever the master/servant bond between them, and offers both a second chance with life. But as the conflicts within the community spill over and attract the attention of outside authorities, Blood becomes a target to those seeking easy blame for theirtroubles. As plots unravel and violence escalates, two young men of uncertain identity appear, and Blood is forced to confront dreaded apparitions of his past, while Sally is offered a final escape.

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