cover image Huck Out West

Huck Out West

Robert Coover. Norton, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-60844-1

With gusto and a rollicking plot, Coover tackles the daunting task of crafting a sequel to a Mark Twain classic. Using a line from the original novel’s penultimate sentence—“I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest”—Coover (The Brunist Day of Wrath) takes Huck, the wide-eyed adventurer, to the Plains states, with much of the story set in “Minnysota.” Huck admits he’s “sometimes homesick for the Big River,” but he rarely looks back, save for a passing reference that helps ground the reader. He and Tom ride for the Pony Express for a few years, before Tom leaves him to marry Becky Thatcher. Huck even has a surprise reunion with Jim, who has found Jesus, been freed from slavery, and is currently looking for the rest of his family. This is American Indian country, mostly Lakota but also Cherokee, the latter of whom Huck calls “Southern gentlemen, living high off the hog.” After Tom leaves, a savvy Union soldier named Dan Harper takes Huck under his wing, before he and his company are massacred by the Lakota. The characters are colorful, with names such as Pegleg, Yaller Whiskers, and Eyepatch. Huck finds love and there’s the inevitable return of Tom, whose adult mischief is more sinister than his teen antics. A lively and fast-paced encore for a beloved American hero. (Jan.)