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The Eden Hunter: A Novel Paperback – August 17, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Louisiana-born Horack's novel (after The Southern Cross collection) offers a stylish, fast-paced, historical narrative based on an 1816 slave insurrection. Spanish slave traders enter the Congo and purchase a captured Pygmy named Kau, transporting him to Pensacola, Fla., where he's sold to an innkeeper. Five years later, Kau kills the innkeeper's son and flees into the wilds of southern Florida. Along his wilderness trek, Kau regrets the murder, yearns for his family in Africa, and encounters a "Negro fort" on the Apalachicola River built by General Garçon. The remote fort's ostentatious "genius" commander befriends the diminutive Kau, who is allowed to take an escaped slave as his mate. The American victory in the War of 1812 makes Garçon, an ally of the British, a target of the imminent American invasion. While sympathetic to the slaves' desire to be free, Kau realizes the slim chance for success against the Americans; he's more inclined to follow his heart and "live quietly" in Florida than stand with Garçon. This diminutive man serves as a watchful protagonist in Horack's crisp, vivid tale.
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From Booklist

Five years after capture and enslavement in the American South, Kau, a pygmy tribesman, manages to escape. He flees into the wilder territories of unsettled Florida, an area still very much in dispute between Native Americans and white Americans, between runaway slaves and slave catchers, between black recruits to the British army to fight the War of 1812 and the white American military. Kau finds himself caught between cultures and clashes on an odyssey through the Florida swamplands, haunted by memories of his own tribe and family, struggling to reconcile the alliances and animosities among the warring black, red, and white tribes he encounters. He meets Native Americans fighting with and against encroaching white men, a family of freed blacks eking a life for themselves, and a mesmerizing former slave who commands a fort while leading a doomed mission. What Kau wants is to find a space in the wilderness that will return him to himself. Horack is masterful in rendering a story of a man whose singularity offers fresh perspective on a turbulent period in American history in an exceptionally evocative novel. --Vanessa Bush

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; 1St Edition edition (August 17, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582436096
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582436098
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

SKIP HORACK is a former Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, where he was also a Wallace Stegner Fellow. His story collection The Southern Cross won the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Fiction Prize, and his novel The Eden Hunter was a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. His second novel, The Other Joseph, will be published by Ecco in March 2015. A native of Louisiana, he is currently an assistant professor at Florida State University. His website is at

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
The description in this story is vivid and the pace fast.
To survive it all one must have a natural connection to the land, its creatures and the almighty creator of it.
W. Powell
I've been meaning to write a review of this beautiful and timeless book for a while.
Adam Johnson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By K. Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on August 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
From the heart of Africa to a life of slavery, from a tragic and daring escape to discovery by the Indians, from moments of tranquility to the devastation accompanying the war of 1812--Skip Horack's remarkable new adventure "The Eden Hunter" covers a lot of ground. In his brisk no-nonsense approach, Horack has crafted a big story but has made it immeasurably intimate. Told through the eyes of Kau, a pygmy hunter who has been living as a slave for five years, a harrowing journey unfolds with much brutality yet also with a surprising tenderness.

Kau certainly is the heart and soul of "The Eden Hunter." An unlikely protagonist, to be sure, Kau wants nothing more than to be left alone to forge a new life. Haunted by tragedy, Kau traverses the world with an underlying sadness. Unique and even threatening in appearance, Kau has the ability to really connect with fellow travelers even when he has no intention of doing so. Whether it is his status as a runaway slave, a native African, or the curiosity of his small stature and sharply filed teeth--people are intrigued by Kau and this ultimately keeps him alive. There is much dignity in this character and as we follow his almost episodic encounters, we see a beaten man who just wants a fresh start at a pure life.

And guess what? You'll want it for him too. While I really admired "The Eden Hunters," I was sometimes more disconnected from this terrific tale than I wanted to be. If anything, it is almost too matter-of-fact in its tone. Horack creates a marvelous central character in Kau and yet the prose sometimes lacks the emotional bite that I would have liked. While on the one hand, I didn't want the novel to devolve into soapy theatrics--on the other, I really wanted to connect on a visceral as well as an intellectual level. However, I do really recommend "The Eden Hunters" as a great adventure filled with tremendous hope and humanity.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. A. Barricklow VINE VOICE on September 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
The previous reviewer, Traveling Through the Heart of Darkness, was quite good in his analysis. The story of Adam or Kau is that of a pygmy hunter taken into slavery. When he is rowed out to the looming square-rigger anchored in the slate and geasy bay, he is not afraid because inside he is already dead. That just as a body could be stolen from one life and dropped in another, so could he one day be free again. This then is our narrator, a dead soul searching for his being, his lost eden.
This narrator then describes through his world/The river would bend and double back and twist like a confused snake, and their raft would stray of course. He also tells of his tribes parables like the farmer who wanted to become a hunter. The story is told and later the meaning deciferred: the farmer died because he demanded that the forrest provide him with more than he ever truly need. These stories, and others, are indeed more strikenly attuned to today than yesterday.
Because of his small size, shark-like teeth, and other characteristics, this eden hunter survives where others would have perished; visits where others would have no access; experiences life in a manner that gives the reader a vacarious perspective, worth the episodic trips to others places in another time long past.
As Kau himself puts it/In the end all he could conclude was that he was a man destined to travel between worlds, to spend a first moving through one and a second life struggling through another, witnessing evil after evil after evil until his own time came to suffer.
He sees other black men and observes/It was as if here among the white men a new tribe had been born, a lost tribe, a tribe with nothing more in common than fading memories of Africa and their own tragic pasts.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Gerrish on October 10, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A disturbing, upsetting, haunting and beautifully told story about Kau, a native-born African and runaway slave who simply wants to find some peace. He hears Florida is nice, maybe the kind of place that a man who is far from home, without a family or a village could settle in and make a home.

This story ends too quickly, but we are never cheated on the details of the environment, experiences or sensations endured by this bright, tiny, shocking character. A unique perspective on a life, a unique life. A great read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Casey on December 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
From the opening chapter, the reader knows she is in the presence of a master story-teller. The book opens with a quote from Herman Melville who recognizes that all men are pygmies in the face of the "great allegory - the world." And so we meet Kau, a member of an African Pygmy tribe; a powerful man named for the leopard he he killed to save his village. One day when Kau is away, another tribe kills his wife and children and captures his father and others, shackles them by the neck to be sold as slaves. Although he kills every member of the tribe who had taken his father captive, he is unable to save his father as he does not know how to unlock the shackles around their necks. Eventually Kau is also captured and sent to America as a slave. He is renamed Adam by his slave owner. Adam lives with the owner, his young son, Benjamin, and an older slave, Samuel. Benjamin and Adam hollow out a log to make a canoe which Adam plans to use to escape. Samuel urges Adam not to leave; Adam threatens to kill him if he interferes. Adam says he is not afraid to die, as he is 'already dead' as a slave. Benjamin wants to come with him, Adam tells him to return home, they fight and Adam kills Benjamin by accident. Adam takes Benjamin's slingshot and knife as weapons.

Adam, using his African name, Kau, sets off on a journey to find his Eden; he seeks a place in the forest where he can live as he had in Africa, free, innocent, undisturbed by white men. He recalls that in his African forest the tribe 'had no enemies' until the slave traders came. The world he finds as a runaway slave is exceedingly violent. Kau experiences remorse at his own violence in killing Benjamin; he has trouble sleeping or even closing his eyes because all he can see is Benjamin.
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