I’m pleased to offer my first book giveaway of the year to one of my lucky readers, for what *I* consider a very special book. My father Reece Newton has published his first novel, “Chasing Texas”, the story of three generations who make their way across the vast landscape of Texas. If you’re interested in the chance to win a copy, just use this simple entry form. I’ll select one lucky winner from my readers, whom I will announce on Monday, March 9th.
To be frank, “Chasing Texas” is not the sort of novel I would normally read. There are no drawing-room scenes of elegant people sprawling about saying elegant things to one another beneath a languid lighting scheme. No one in the book holds an aristocratic title or high political office, engaging in the kind of plotting and intrigue that often accompany such positions. Instead, this a book of gritty realism, but one in which the values of basic decency and respect for others still matter to the characters inhabiting the Texas evoked by the author,
When the first protagonist of the book, Sedge Rountree, decides to leave home on his quest, he is following in a line of stories seminal to Western literature, from “The Odyssey” to “Don Quixote” to “Captains Courageous”. This type of storytelling begins with adventure, but ends up being more about the making of a man in the process. Moreover, “Chasing Texas” is engagingly written, painstakingly researched, and frankly rather hard to put down, in the tradition of the best “on the road” type of literature.
Take a look at this passage, for example, when Sedge is thinking back on what he left behind as he heads out across Texas. Even as he sleeps out in the cold, remembering the comforts of home, he is already beginning to realize how he is changing from a boy into a man:
Shivering, he wrapped himself more tightly in his blankets, thought of the fireplace at home, his mother making his favorite by filling cored apples with raisins, cinnamon, brown sugar, and a little of the blackberry brandy and nestling them near the dulling coals of the fire to roast and meld the fruit, but strangely something in him now made that seem not appealing at all.
Later, Sedge has found work on a ranch, but has run into trouble with the law. He has made friends with an elderly Indian named Alonso, whose real name is Red Wolf Runner. As the two sit and consider the troubles facing Sedge, the old man reflects on his own regrets:
They sat watching the hills far across fading into deeper blues. The old man gazed at them, hardly breathing, it seemed.”To dream of the wolf was a good sign, they used to tell me. A good sign for a boy. It meant he was true to himself. To know what was right and to do right. I don’t know if I was true. I tried to be.”
Sedge and the other Rountree boys that come after him have to go through their own trials in the transition from boyhood to manhood, against the backdrop of Texas. In fact Texas is, in a way, another character in the book. From the marshlands and Gulf Coast of East Texas to the big open skies of West Texas, the Rountrees continue to head West across their home state, never quite knowing what lessons life will have in store for them, even as the State draws them on.
Sometimes those lessons are pleasant and profitable; other times, they are extremely serious, even deadly in nature. And nature itself, in the hugely varied geography and wildlife of Texas, is more than mere scenery for these men. The places they find themselves are as important to the plot as any other individual in this family tapestry.
Even as generations and stories change within the novel, the reader stays with these men, coming to appreciate and identify with them, as characters with facets mirroring his own. With age comes the realization that, despite what you have been told, there really is no single guaranteed path to success, otherwise everyone would simply follow the same path and achieve the same ends. Instead, as the experiences of the Rountrees demonstrate in this novel, the question of remaining true to the self, even when the end result is unclear, matters more than any achievement measurable by mere human standards.
Again, for those of my readers interested in entering to win a free copy of the novel, please fill out this form with your contact information, and I will announce the winner on Monday, April 9th. And for those of you who do not want to wait to find out whether you’ve won, hop on by Amazon and pick up either a printed or e-reader copy of Chasing Texas for yourself or someone whom you know would enjoy it. I am certain you or your recipient will appreciate the well-woven storytelling as much as I did.
Nice job, Dad. :-)