cover image Westbound


K. Patrick Conner. Nalc, $7.99 e-book (318p) ISBN 978-0-9856312-3-9

In Connor’s wistful multigenerational saga (after Dying Words), a downhearted patriarch delves into stories of an ancestor. In San Francisco, elderly divorcé Elliot Madison lives with his granddaughter Alissa, 23, whom he raised since she was a teen after his daughter’s divorce. Now Elliot grumps about the rebellious Alissa’s partying and playing drums in a metal band called the Sores. Once the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, Elliot spends his retirement researching and reading the journal of his adventurous great-grandfather William Henry Madison, who in 1851 left his home in Charleston, S.C., in search of gold in California (he took the sea route around Cape Horn, and his journal describes the harrowing six-month voyage). Adding intrigue to Elliot’s genealogical research is a stranger, Phoebe Crighton, who claims her ancestor knew William. As Elliot begins writing a book about William, he collaborates with Phoebe on untangling the mysteries of their lineages and begrudgingly supports the Sores, ordering takeout for them and visiting their gigs. Connor teases out smart insights on his characters as they forge new identities. Here’s Elliot reflecting on William: “he had also gone in search of himself, hoping to learn who he was and who he might become.” Readers will delight in the lead’s moving and surprising discoveries. (Self-published)