Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on November 4, 2014
Genres/Lists: Fiction, Historical Fiction
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There are times when I read outside of my comfort zone and it goes horribly wrong, but then there times that it goes incredibly well and makes it worth my while. Far As the Eye Can See by Robert Bausch was one of the times it was well worth it and I may have to reconsider my feelings about westerns. Although this may not be a western in the traditional sense of the genre’s definition, the book takes place in the midwest during a time of struggle and follows a man throughout his journey, both physically and emotionally.At its core, Far As the Eye Can See is the story of Bobby Hale, a former Union soldier who was known for gaming the system but is too sincere to be considered a conman. After the war, he heads west (as many did at the time) in an effort to live a better life, only to be left wandering the middle of the country and learning about himself in the process. He is both friend and foe to the Native Americans he encounters – at times he is tracking them in order to round them up or kill them, while at other times he finds safety with them. It’s the story of a man who wants to do right by the very culture he is out to destroy, his coming to terms with his own past, and charting a new path for his future.
I usually have trouble with narrations that are written in any given dialect, but the southern dialect of Bobby Hale didn’t bother me in the least. Bausch writes him in such a way that his naivety is charming rather than annoying and while I had trouble with some of his actions, I found myself rooting for him, nonetheless. There’s a bit of romance, a good bit of action, and a lot of history rolled into this book, but the end result is story that’s impossible to put down and a protagonist you want to overcome the odds stacked against him. With each person he encounters along his way, Hale learns something new about himself, which lends a redeeming quality that I wasn’t expecting.I read out of my comfort zone & loved it: Far As the Eye Can See by @RobertBausch1 Click To Tweet
I say this isn’t a western in the traditional sense because there are no saloon showdowns and it’s morally ambiguous. I haven’t read many westerns so I may be wrong about my assumptions, but they seem to be very black and white in terms of who is good and who is evil. There are, of course, the obvious villains – no one in their right mind would argue that America’s treatment of the Native Americans was acceptable – but many of the individual characters contained within the story are a lot less obvious in their role of villain or victim. I love that the book allows readers to decide for themselves whether someone’s good qualities outweigh the bad and leaves room for a wide spectrum of final impressions. So while this was originally outside of my comfort zone, I easily slipped into a place where it was comfortable.
Recommended for: Western fans, obviously, but also those who want to expand their horizons and read a book that lets them make up their minds about how to feel about each character rather than having it laid out for them.