Review of The Trackers by Charles Frazier
Frazier offers an immersive story that morphs from a WPA-funded rural art commission to a leisurely country-wide search, an unlikely obsession, moments of brutality, strange connections, and, finally, an upended set of circumstances.
In The Trackers, Cold Mountain author Charles Frazier offers historical fiction featuring a Great Depression-era painter, Val Welch, traveling west to a small rural town in Wyoming.
As part of a New Deal grant, Val has landed the job of painting a mural on the Dawes, Wyoming, post office. In Dawes, he meets eccentric, wealthy art lovers John and Eve Long--mysterious, possibly hiding something, and certainly unpredictable.
When Eve takes off from Dawes with a piece of valuable artwork, Val agrees to follow her--and uncovers long-buried secrets that could change everything.
The situation is complicated between Val and Eve and John, Eve and John themselves, and regarding the couple's circumspect right-hand-man cowboy Faro. Many things go unsaid, while deep, defining secrets are also revealed.
I love a Great Depression-set story, and in Frazier's literary fiction The Trackers, he immerses us in the resentments, desperation, and tiredness of the period. The search for Eve morphs into an uncomfortable encounter between Val and a volatile family; a terrible evasion effort on the part of Val; and an unusual connection between Eve, Val, and Faro. Yet loyalties variously rule all or fade away as an unlikely set of alliances and relationships stand at the end of the story.
Frazier's writing is gorgeous, evoking the stark western landscapes Val passes through, gritty San Francisco, and the powerful cliffside ocean as well as lush, wild, wet Florida and its accompanying corruption and danger.
I received a prepublication version of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Ecco.
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If you're interested in Great Depression-era historical fiction like I am, you might also like the books The Giver of Stars, The Saints of Swallow Hill, Wingwalkers by Taylor Brown, Nocturne, which offers magical realism and a dance-focused storyline within a Great Depression setting, and This Tender Land.