Synopses & Reviews
When Robey Childs's mother has a premonition about her husband, a soldier fighting in the Civil War, she does the unthinkable: she instructs her only child to find his father on the battlefield and bring him home.
At fourteen, wearing the coat his mother sewed to ensure his safety—blue on one side, gray on the other—Robey thinks he is off on a great adventure. But not far from home, his horse falters and he realizes the enormity of his task. It takes the gift of a powerful and noble coal black horse to show him how to undertake the most important journey of his life: with boldnesss, bravery, and self-possession.
Yet even that horse is no match for the brutality and senselessness of war, no surrogate for the courage Robey needs to summon in its face. It's in the center of that landscape, as witness to the lawlessness and carnage around him, that he is forced to raise a gun for the first time in his life. When he returns to his mother, Robey Childs will be the best a man can be, and the worst, irrevocably scarred by all he has seen—and all he has done.
When Robert Olmstead published his debut, River Dogs, he was compared to Richard Ford, Raymond Carver, Thomas McGuane. Since that time, Olmstead has received high praise for all of his work. But it's this book that is destined to become a classic. Coal Black Horse joins the pantheon of great war novels—All Quiet on the Western Front, The Red Badge of Courage, The Naked and the Dead.
“A spare, classical quest story . . . With a horse like this, you just want to ride, and with descriptive powers such as he displays here, Olmstead makes the ride an exciting one, with just enough lean prose to keep the mystery of an event both in time and out . . . and just the proper amount of sharp description to keep us bound to whatever piece of earth the particular moment of the story happens to be grounded in. . . . An effective mix of stark classic narrative and uncloying nostalgia.”
—San Francisco Chronicle The San Francisco Chronicle
"Robert Olmstead is an original in the American grain. . . . From the world of his work—muscular and male—he has fashioned a fresh and vital language."—Tobias Wolff
andquot;Robert Olmstead is an original in the American grain. . . . From the world of his workand#8212;muscular and maleand#8212;he has fashioned a fresh and vital language.andquot;and#8212;Tobias Wolff
andquot;A powerful, redemptive narrative.andquot;
and#8211; Publishers Weekly
andquot;A mesmerizing descent into the hypnotic and violent hell of war. Olmstead has given us another spare and brilliant story of family, allegiance, and love.andquot;and#8211; Anthony Swofford
"The Civil War turns a boy into a man in Olmstead's latest novel… [Olmstead] evinces a primordial universe: a time before gods, before mortality, a time in which war is as natural and inevitable as birdsong in the morning…Powerful and poetic."
—Kirkus Reviews Kirkus Reviews
andquot;A powerful, redemptive narrative.andquot;and#8211; Publishers Weekly
"Coal Black Horse
, Robert Olmstead's magisterial sixth book, is as sensate as poetry and forbidding as any squall, steeped in detail but bound by few storytelling conventions. I wondered, as I read it, if it might be classified as myth....Coal Black Horse
is a remarkable creation."
—The Chicago Tribune Chicago Tribune
“With his lush, incantatory voice, Robert Olmstead describes a boy thrust into one of the war's most horrific moments. . . gorgeous and moving passages”
—Washington Post Book World The Washington Post
"Robert Olmstead's fable Coal Black Horse is deft, moving, intensely readable, and just about tone perfect."—Richard Ford
"A powerful, redemptive narrative."
– Publishers Weekly Publishers Weekly
"With a horse like this, you just want to ride. And with the descriptive power such as he displays here, Olmstead makes the ride an exciting one—in lean prose, reminiscent of Crane's Red Badge of Courage, with just the proper amount of sharp description...The characters seem to spring up out of these surroundings, universal and yet specifically lifelike, adding to a story that lingers in the mind like a faded song about a boy and his horse from Child's mountain home.
—Alan Cheuse, NPR's "All Things Considered"
"It's the kind of novel that you will want to read once simply for the storytelling...Then you will want to read it again to let Olmstead's prose wash over you. It's as muscular, sturdy, well hewn, and wise as the coal-black horse himself.
—Boston Globe Boston Globe
"An exciting...coming-of-age novel...a grueling adventure."
—New York Times Book Review New York Times Book Review
"Nothing I have ever read, in a willing career spent flipping the pages of war fiction, ever left a more visceral (and I mean that word precisely) impression of the horrors of war. The effect is staggering, saddening, a triumph of carnage-channeling."
—Paste magazine Paste Magazine
When 14-year-old Robey Child is sent by his mother to search for his father, a doomed soldier, he witnesses the horrors of war both on and off the battlefield. Riding a talismanic coal black horse, he embarks upon a life-altering journey that will challenge him physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
When Robey Childs's mother has a premonition about her husband, a soldier fighting in the Civil War, she sends her only child to find him and bring him home.
At fourteen, Robey thinks he is off on a great adventure. But it takes the gift of a powerful and noble coal black horse to show him how to undertake the most important journey of his life.
Olmstead's epic tale joins the pantheon of great war novels—All Quiet on the Western Front, The Red Badge of Courage, The Naked and the Dead.
About the Author
Robert Olmstead is the author of seven previous books. Coal Black Horse was the winner of the Heartland Prize for Fiction and the Ohioana Award, and was a #1 Book Sense pick and a Borders Discover pick. Far Bright Star was the winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEA grant, and is a professor at Ohio Wesleyan University.