The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart

The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart




One moonless night in February 1895, a young landowner in Texas cow country loses his wife in childbirth. In the lonely years that follow, his new son, his fourth, grows to become a skillful, aggressive jockey and his father, with equal fervor, stakes his land and fortunes on his success. In 1910, father and son, distant yet strangely joined in this venture, race to a point of no return for the entire family. What happens to the son beyond that juncture will not reconfigure his past, but it will burnish him into unexpected maturity. (Hand-selling tip: Of this first novel, one early reader wrote, “If Evan S. Connell, William Faulkner, and Norman Maclean had been born as one person, he might possess the extraordinary gifts of Bruce Machart.”)

 My Review

A sweeping epic saga across 30 years of the life of a family, brothers and a father and their deceased mother.
Wonderfully layered out in some of the most eloquent words strung together in a sentence.
This guy can really write and literally unheard of by the reading population. A must read this novel deserves immediate attention by the populace, the author has crafted a story that was such a joy to read captivating, deep sense of meaning and place.
I am thinking along the lines of Train Dreams by Denis Johnson and Volt stories by Alan Heathcock with some great descriptive sentences and metaphors like that of James Lee Burke’s writing.

Those who love horses will love the beautiful animals that play an important role in the backdrop of this period piece set in the unforgiving Texan landscape from the between the late  1800’s and to the early 1900’s. It takes you from the death of a mother during child birth and the genesis and birth of brothers to their relationship with their father to their finding of a companion and their findings of lust and love. Through the bitter ugliness of fighting and rivalry amongst brothers and fathers, to the steps of reconciliation and gratitude to the greater things than man holds in their midst.
They fall, they err but will they forgive for the past and move forward with hope and love?

This is possibly another retelling of a kind of Greek tragedy in fiction.
Motherhood and fatherhood. Sons and daughters these are important characters in this story their flaws, their triumphs and their hopes and challenges.
A memorable story on love between spouses and kin those lost and that could have been and love in lust and most importantly love that will be newly re-discovered as the story ends for life, for humanity.
Sacrifice,love and trust are very important elements that string through this story from beginning to end.
One not to be missed beautiful prose of staggering violence and beauty that could be carved out into trees for generations to come to splendor at.

A few excerpts below some more to come in a few days.

“The townsfolk would assume, from this day forward, that Klara’s death had turned a gentle man bitter and hard, but the truth, Vaclav knew, was that her absence only rendered him, again, the man he’d been before he’d met her, one only her proximity had ever softened.”

“men are eroded of kindness by the slow, interminable friction of their unrealized desires.”


“He gathers the horse’s lead and puts a foot in the stirrup, wondering just how in the hell a man is supposed to go about asking the dead to forgive him for ever finding comfort at another woman’s breast. Or for going on living at all when she could not. Or for doing his father’s delirious bidding and leaving him to die in the mud alone. Or for leaving their children so long at odds with one another in the world. And then he wonders if he’s just done it, if it could be that simple.”


“reckoned that family was another. A man couldn’t any more choose which one he was born into than he could will it to stay together when so many things abraded and raveled the fibers that were meant to keep it bound. Try to hold it all together with force, with a harness and a hard hand the way their father had, and it grew so thick with the cordage of resentment that you couldn’t even get your hands around it.”


“My father says that if we look for ourselves in others, we’re likely to find someone we don’t recognize.”


 “His hearing, after these five years of marriage, was attuned to her voice in the way common only to husbands who adore their wives and those who lie to them with regularity. To Karel’s mind, he practised the latter because of the former, because Sophie was a good woman, kind and hearty and generous, so much so, in fact, that he suspected she knew when he was less than honest, less than wholly hers, and that she endured the indiscretions the way a good horse will endure shoeing and hard harness work, blinded to everything but the promise of brushstrokes and oats, of kindness and comfort. With eyes affixed only to a future worth forsaking the present for.”
“In the distance, coyotes have found their voices in the damp promise of weather, calling out as if in answer to the inconsiderate onset of cold. Visibly agitated along the fence line, the horses blow and complain, their hides shuddering violently with the worried work of their muscles. To the west, when Villasenor’s surrey rolls dark and polished as a hearse to the gate, the sky hangs swollen and sickly above the distant horizon as if the whole mass of the heavens has been wounded and gauzed with clouds and backlit feebly by the diminishing moon.”

“He watches the girl leaning forward over her horse’s neck, her hair falling crimped in wet ripples down her back. Even on a stationery horse, her weight is centred over her bent knees, her spine held straight. There’s a seasoned confidence to her, he thinks, and she carries it in her body, in her upright and unflagging posture, a solidness in her legs and shoulders that is almost masculine. But then there is the breathtaking taper of her back, it’s sudden slope into a waist so slight that Karel feels certain it’s smaller around than a man’s hatband. There’s the wide, smooth flare of her hips. If she were reclined such that you could run a finger along the side of her body from ribs to thighs, it might put you in mind of a single, perfect valley found in a landscape of irregular, rolling foothills, of a horizon you’d gladly ride all day to reach. Sure enough, she’s her fathers child. She has his olive skin, his dark hair and eyes, his easy assuredness, but one look at her would make any man wonder how lovely was her mother.”
“And then shes running hard and away, hugging the perimeter of the trees as she widens her lead and whips her horse, her braided hair flung back and black and dancing playfully in the air behind her shoulders.Alive in Karel’s mind is only a whisper of suspicion, one muted by the astonishing beauty of what he’s seen, and he smiles at the fortune of having borne witness to something so graceful and yet so capable and strong, to a girl turned woman before his eyes, to that woman flashing her white teeth at him, smiling because, for her, as or Karel, there is nothing quite so thrilling as a race run on horseback, nothing filled more with wonder, nothing so able to convince you that you are flesh and blood and alive in the world that offers so few joys other than this running.”

“He has seen father and son both spilling blood, the exuberance of the crowd around them-he is bearing witness now to something far more regrettable than a race for land and bridegrooms’ hands. This is the bloodlust of brothers, the vengeful rage of the father, all of it born out and somehow flawless in its wickedness, like some depraved reenactment of Genesis staged solely for the amusement of reprobates. How far? He wonders. How far may we follow one ill-chosen and descending path?”
“Whiskey takes no notice, moves forward, his hooves splashing in the standing water of the pasture, and Karel shudders against the unexpected rise of penitential guilt. He has seen, he knows, something he was not meant to see, and on a night when all but the nocturnal are deprived of sight, and on the skin of his arms he wears the prickle of conscience-laden exhilaration, the same as he’d felt when, as a boy skipping rocks on a summer Sunday, he’d stumbled across three bathing schoolgirls in the swollen creek, their sun-flushed skin appointed with beads of water and a smooth newness from which Karel couldn’t pull his eyes-the arc of their spines when they bent to splash water onto one another, the dark mystery of their nipples, so different from his own, wind kissed and erect and upturned on their budding breast.Karel smiles and shakes his head. How is it that seeing the priest who baptised him could occasion memories of naked girls? How is it that anything ever gives rise to what it does instead of what it should?After half a mile spent all but blind on his horse, when the rain lets up further without stopping altogether, Karel’s eyes find some discernible depth in the darkness. Whiskey blows, his hide rippling beneath the saddle, and Karel breathes through his nose, inhaling the sweet, musky smell of wet horsehair. His eye is puffed up near to closed, aching still, but only as a muted throbbing deep beneath the skin. There’s something to be taken from this, he thinks. Something about the body, something about the eyes, about the flesh and the bones and the heart. About how they want to adjust, to heal, to see and feel. And they do, he thinks, if never entirely.”

“The horse exhales with a shudder, its breath coming in laboured bursts of steam, the hollow music of the rain striking its hide like that of a wet-skinned drum played only with the fingertips of children. Karel has never thought of what he felt for the animal as love, and even now he isn’t sure that’s the word he would choose. But it is certainly something akin to affection, something as fluttering and warm as the fine quivering of the horse’s musculature now at work beneath its damp hide. The trouble with animals, with caring for beasts, is that, if you do it very long at all, you have to witness the end of something you’ve seen born. Karel curses under his breath. He thinks of the rifle leaning by the kitchen door, of the long walk through the rain and mud he’ll have to take so that, when he returns, he can do so equipped for a loud and necessary and violent kindness.The horse, absent the heavy breathing, sprawls so quietly, its pain sustained without much of any outward complaint. Karel marvels at it, at the inborn capacity for such silent suffering.”    

“He considers the countless times he’s imagined his mother, the length of her hair, the crinkling pleat work of her skirts, the soft blue consolation of her eyes. He’d never seen any of it, but now he can’t check himself, can’t help but think that he might very well have heard her voice, that he might have known the sound of her even from within her body, that she might have sung to her unborn while she went about her chores or cried out in those final moments of her labor pains, and that, though he can’t recall it or reproduce it, he’s been carrying it around inside of him, the memory of it, an actual memory of her, a real memory, for the whole of his life.”


Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 03 August 2012

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