The Way to Bright Star

Dee Brown, Author
Dee Brown, Author Forge $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-86612-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 384 pages - 978-0-8125-8913-9
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-7653-2255-5
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Returning to the westerns he tells so well, Brown, best known for Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1971), takes us on a peculiar odyssey of youth and innocence during the turmoil of the Civil War. The spirited tale opens in 1902, when narrator Ben Butterfield, a gimp-legged former circus horseback performer who is now the harried proprietor of a hardware store, attempts ""to set down the story of my wasted life"" before he forgets the adventure that was its high point. Forty years earlier, in the spring of 1862 in northwest Arkansas, young Ben embarks on an unlikely journey. A Yankee officer assigns him, cavalry scout Johnny Hawkes and Egyptian cameleer Hadjee the duty of transporting two camels, the officer's own personal contraband, from Arkansas to his farm in Bright Star, Indiana. Traveling across Arkansas and Missouri in 1862 turns out to be a tricky proposition as Ben and his comrades meet Rebs and Yanks, shysters, thieves and all-around mean-spirited folks. After witnessing a bungled bank robbery, Ben's party offers sanctuary to a luckless robber who turns out to be a young girl. Now fugitive themselves, the party is pursued by the law and by a crazy gunman--who is after more than just gold. Short on action but studded with colorful vignettes, this sentimental story reflects, both buoyantly and tenderly, the moments of love, friendship and fame its Huckleberry Finn-like protagonist briefly enjoyed. (June)
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