Synopses & Reviews
On a moonless Texas night in 1895, an ambitious young landowner suffers the loss of "the only woman he's ever been fond of" when his wife dies while giving birth to the couple's fourth boy, Karel. From an early age, Karel proves so talented on horseback that his father enlists him to ride in acreage-staked races against his neighbors. But Karel is forever haunted by thoughts of the mother he never knew and the bloodshot blame in his father's eyes, and permanently marked by the yoke he and his brothers are forced to wear to plow the family fields. Confident only in the saddle, Karel is certain that the horse "wants the whip the same way he wants his pop's strap... the closest he ever gets to his father's touch."
In the winter of 1910, Karel rides in the ultimate high-stakes race against a powerful Spanish patriarch and his alluring daughters. Hanging in the balance are his father's fortune, his brothers' futures, and his own fate. Fourteen years later, with the stake of the race still driven hard between him and his brothers, Karel is finally forced to dress the wounds of his past and salvage the tattered fabric of his family.
Reminiscent of Kent Haruf's portrayals of hope amidst human heartbreak and Cormac McCarthy's finely hewn evocations of the American Southwest, Bruce Machart's striking debut is as well wrought as it is riveting. It compels us to consider the inescapable connections between sons and their mothers, between landscape and family, and between remembrance and redemption.
"Machart's bleak, accomplished debut opens in 1895 as a landowning Texas family faces both sides of life's spectrum: the birth of a fourth son and the death of the boy's mother during childbirth. This event resonates throughout the lives of Vaclav Skala, who lost 'the only woman he'd ever been fond of,' and his four sons who, 15 years later, find their youngest sibling, Karel, to be a preternaturally talented equestrian. While Vaclav's wagers on his son's races increase, so does Karel's confidence, especially when facing off against the talk of the town: Guillermo Villasenor, a powerful, moneyed, patronizing patriarch with three beautiful daughters. Yet Karel remains haunted by the memory of his mother, often feeling 'the flat cool of her absence,' and a prideful father who keeps him at arm's length. The consequences of a race that has his father's land hanging in the balance play out some 14 years later when, in 1924, Karel is married with children, yet still finds himself straying and facing inter-familial discord. Machart's moving story unfolds lyrically and sensually, with little fanfare, as his thoughtful prose propels a character-driven story about family, morality, and redemption. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"A mesmerizing, mythic saga." New York Times
"In his luminous and wrenching tale of four motherless brothers, Machart skillfully evokes the rural Texas landscape." Entertainment Weekly
"Bruce Machart has penned a dazzling, gratifying tale of retribution, redemption and morality." San Antonio Express News
"This is pure literature; an emphasis on language over plot; risky, complex and often unlikable characters and that echo, that ripple that flows forward into the future and backward into myth." Los Angeles Times
"Such evocative prose helps make Machart's novel a standout this year, in any genre." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Machart writes fine idiomatic dialogue and unwinds textured details of farm life, horse racing, and the vagaries of the weather." Houston Chronicle
"The big state of Texas is home to many good writers, and the arrival of Bruce Machart's debut novel shows there's always room for one more." Dallas Morning News
"Machart's prose is so evocative that you can smell the men's cheap tobacco and corn mash, feel the bare, hard-packed earth from which they coax crops. Their dialogue, rural south Texas vernacular, is spare, gnarled and often funny. In addition to the violence, betrayals and cruelty of an old-fashioned western, The Wake of Forgiveness also finds redemption" Wall Street Journal
"This intense, fast-paced debut novel is hard to put down. Machart's hard-hitting style is sure to capture fans of Cormac McCarthy and Jim Harrison. We can only hope for more exceptional fiction from this very talented writer. Enthusiastically recommended." Library Journal (Starred Review)
Reminiscent of Kent Haruf and Cormac McCarthy, Bruce Machart's debut novel is a dark family saga set in the American Southwest.
On a moonless Texas night in 1895, an ambitious young landowner suffers the loss of “the only woman hes ever been fond of” when his wife dies during childbirth with the couple's fourth son, Karel. The boy is forever haunted by thoughts of the mother he never knew, by the bloodshot blame in his fathers eyes, and permanently marked by the yoke he and his brothers are forced to wear to plow the family fields. From an early age, Karel proves so talented on horseback that his father enlists him to ride in acreage-staked horseraces against his neighbors. In the winter of 1910, Karel rides in the ultimate high-stakes race against a powerful Spanish patriarch and his alluring daughters: hanging in the balance are his father's fortune, his brothers' futures, and his own fate.
The Wake of Forgiveness is a novel set in Lavaca County, Texas, spanning the years 1910-1926, when a blood feud erupts after the forbidden marriages of a wealthy Czech landowner's sons to the daughters of a prominent Spanish horse breeder who comes to Texas seeking refuge from the Mexican Revolution.
About the Author
Bruce Machart is the author of The Wake of Forgiveness. His fiction has appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story, Glimmer Train, Story, One Story and elsewhere, and has been anthologized in Best Stories of the American West. A graduate of the MFA program at Ohio State University, Machart is Assistant Professor of English at Bridgewater State University, and he lives in Hamilton, Massachusetts.