cover image All God’s Children

All God’s Children

Aaron Gwyn. Europa, $18 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-60945-618-4

Gwyn (Wynne’s War) unleashes a powerful, decades-spanning novel of Texas’s violent birth in the mid-19th century. Duncan Lammons, 20, a gay son of a preacher, travels from Kentucky to the frontier in 1827, hoping he can somehow purify himself of what he calls his “unnatural hunger.” Duncan joins the Texian army’s fight for independence in 1835, and during the course of his service develops feelings for fellow soldier Sam Fisk. A parallel narrative follows Cecelia, a literate and resourceful young enslaved woman who repeatedly escapes and gets caught by her Virginia master throughout her teens, until she is resold farther South to pick cotton. Her fortunes change when Sam rescues her from a Louisiana auction block and takes her back to Texas, where he settles on a parcel of land in central Texas. They eventually become lovers, and Cecilia bears a son. Now a retired Ranger and Mexican War veteran in 1846, Duncan settles down nearby, but tension brews between him and Cecelia over the way Duncan looks at Sam. When Sam’s land claim is contested over objections to Sam living with a Black woman, Duncan tries to save them from danger. Whether it’s Cecelia struggling to pick enough cotton to avoid a whipping while enslaved or Duncan taking part in the siege of Monterrey, Gwyn creates an overwhelmingly visceral and emotionally rich narrative amid Texas’s complex path to statehood, making readers care deeply about the characters’ fates. This is a masterpiece of western fiction in the tradition of Cormac McCarthy and James Carlos Blake. (Oct.)