Sunday, September 29, 2019

Historical Book Review: Wanders Far by David Fitz-Gerald






Wanders Far by David Ritz-Gerald
Released: May 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction, folklore
pages: 198 (paperback)
Available on: Amazon in paperback and ebook

Reviewers note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


You really can't judge a book by its cover. The gorgeous cover of this novel totally sold me. What a face. But, I have to admit the story, the tale of Wanders Far was a disappointment for me. 

The book opens just before his birth. His family lives along the Mohawk River in New York, centuries before Europeans settled the North American continent. The year is 1125. The writer has done his homework and we learn a lot about the daily life of the Native Americans who populated the area, which I found of interest. Although, I think the author went overboard on the blow by blow process of making a canoe. I was also surprised that in the minutia of the daily life of the Native Americans, there was no in-depth exploration of their religious life and/or ceremonies. That is until Wanders Far's story is pretty far along. 

After Wanders Far is born, we trail after him on his walk-abouts, of which there are many. As a young child, 5-6 years old he travels miles and miles alone through the wilderness, never coming to any harm. (Okay, it is folklore, I'll give it a pass) At first his family looks for him and then give up. Wanders Far will go when and where he wants.

The author tells us that Wanders Far is an 'Old Soul' and indeed we learn he is a special child. Wise beyond his years, he has visions of the past and the future. We learn what his vision are and sure as shootin a few chapters later the very same thing happens. We are told he plays an important part in creating the Iroquois Confederation.  All very interesting in concept, but not in the telling.

So, why didn't I like this book. The writing. It drove me crazy. After the first chapter, I put the book down and went to Amazon to see if it was a Middle Grade book for 4th graders. The writing is childish and highly repetitive.  If you can say something once, why not say it three or four times? 

The dialogue was also strangely modern. At one point the father says, 'Good job' son. Another person says, 'wow', and Wanders Fars admits he 'goofed off'. The language seems incongruent with the time period. The author acknowledges this fact and asks us to overlook it. Why not just rewrite it? 

There is no tension, no suspense, no nail biting will he do it moments. Everyone just trundles along. Even the one bad guy is a cartoon character. I was never afraid for Wanders Far, never said, I can't believe that just happened or I didn't see that coming or what on earth did that mean. Nope, the book reads like: he did this, then he did that, then he did this again, and yep, he did that. The author tells us everything, but shows us nothing. 

Did I hate the book? No. Did I like it? Not really. Did I learn something from it? Yes. So was it worth reading? I find value in learning new things, so I can answer yes to this. But, I was glad to reach the last page.

Now, I go to Amazon and Goodreads to post my review. There are multiple other reviews already there. Most are five stars. Wait, what? Did I miss something? I go back and re-read about half the book. I look for deeper meanings or some reason for the plodding redundancy of his storytelling. I can't find it. Maybe I am deficient, this is over my paygrade, or something else is missing. Whatever, I could not connect to this book. Clearly, other people have thoroughly enjoyed it. Just not me. So, take my review with a grain of salt and don't let it put you off the book, if it sounds like it's up your alley. 

Recommendations: This is tough. If you want to learn about the daily lives of Native Americans give it a read. But a pass if you are looking for a great story.

I give this book 2 1/2 stars



My Ratings: 

1  Star: Not good at all, do not read!

2  Stars: Read only as a last resort, no other books available

3 Stars: Good, enjoyed it, will recommend with reservations

4 Stars: Really good, read this book!

5 Stars: So good, I might read it again sometime! Highly recommend

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