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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Does all the Great Things You want a Book to Do
"This is the bloodlust of brothers, the vengeful rage of the father, all of it born out and somehow flawless in its wickedness, like some depraved reenactment of Genesis staged solely for the amusement of reprobates." -The Wake of Forgiveness

Every once in a great while you come across a book that does all the things you want a book to do. Prose so sumptuous...
Published on August 30, 2010 by Richard Wells

versus
37 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard to handle...
There are many positives of this story including the talent of the writer. The historical aspect of this book is amazing, you can see & feel everything about this time. The language will make you feel you are right there with the characters. For all of these reasons, I applaud the author & know he has a promising future. The reason I only gave this 3 stars is because...
Published on October 9, 2010 by WestGrl


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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Does all the Great Things You want a Book to Do, August 30, 2010
By 
Richard Wells (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
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"This is the bloodlust of brothers, the vengeful rage of the father, all of it born out and somehow flawless in its wickedness, like some depraved reenactment of Genesis staged solely for the amusement of reprobates." -The Wake of Forgiveness

Every once in a great while you come across a book that does all the things you want a book to do. Prose so sumptuous you hold your breath through whole sections because breathing - even breathing - would disrupt the amazing way a thought is unfolding. A plot with absolutely no holes, that steps surely through event after inexorable event leading you through a story as deep as any Greek or Shakespearian classic. The Wake of Forgiveness is one of those books. It's a Texas- lean epic novel. The story of a Czech family led by a patriarch as cruel and driven as Ahab, and a family of boys physically and emotionally twisted and misshapen by the hard labor and rigid disciplines their father forces upon them.

The Wake of Forgiveness is about hard men with broken hearts, and intentions that may seem evil but are born out of harsh lives in a harsh environment. It is also about the only gentling agents in the environment - women and children. It's about how forgiveness can catch us in its wake, and bring us a little closer to shore, and most importantly, it's about what I think every great work of fiction is about - redemption that rises against all odds from soul breaking struggle.

Against what would seem to be all possibility Bruce Machart writes of these men with great affection because their actions, both gentle and monstrous, are motivated, and even seem necessary considering what has befallen them.

I'm going to re-read this one right away, and it's going to live on my shelves, handy for readings in the future.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A race to the finish, October 9, 2010
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Vaclav Skala is widowed and embittered. He hitches his four strong sons to the plow because he loves his race horses too much to yoke them. One afternoon, as his sons strain at the bit and he reminds them with the whip to pull hard, a man with three lovely daughters shows up and offers a wager that is impossible to resist, and impossible to win without destroying the Vaclav's stunted family.

This is a novel about the ways in which humans are bent and hurt by their lives. It contains enough mud, physical injury, damage to women, suffering animals and death for ten novels. And yet the prose rings heavy with beauty. Sprinkled through the harsh sex and rough revenge are perfectly worded observations about family, history, religion and forgiveness. The riding scenes are transportingly physical and detailed. Somehow, a hopeful story emerges out of all this brutality and pain.

I thought of Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Annie Proulx. This is a novel for a reader who likes dense writing and the crack of bones under the muscle. Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart.
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37 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard to handle..., October 9, 2010
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There are many positives of this story including the talent of the writer. The historical aspect of this book is amazing, you can see & feel everything about this time. The language will make you feel you are right there with the characters. For all of these reasons, I applaud the author & know he has a promising future. The reason I only gave this 3 stars is because this is a very hard story. 99% of the characters are unlikeable due to cruelty. If you are looking for a light or happy read, it's definitely not here. There was also not much interaction between the characters, mainly focusing on descriptions of places, thoughts to one self, explanations of certain scenes being witnessed. While the author has a talent for this, sometimes it just seemed to go on too long & I began to get bored. Towards the end is when I was finally hooked, finding some likable qualities in some of the characters & more interaction between them. I am truly torn as to whether I liked this book in the end. I guess I can only say that I was able to appreciate the quality of the writing but the story was just too dark & cruel for me.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Once per decade., October 14, 2010
By 
Philip Dean (Washington, D.C.) - See all my reviews
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The editor of this novel, Adrienne Brodeur, has mentioned publicly her enthusiasm for Jim Harrison's Legends of the Fall (for me, *the* textbook collection of the contemporary long story, or novella, form) and Norman MacLean's A River Runs Through It, and I think these associations are meaningful. Another way to look at that is that about once per decade a new talent emerges who is willing to, and can, address the movement of men through a remote landscape and time. There are exotic and fascinating women in this novel, but it is a novel about men being threatened (some crushed) by their own passions, and their own land, not to mention their own humanity which is shot through with vulnerabilities.

Some have linked Machart with Cormac McCarthy in purpose and effect, but I think that is an ill-wind of an association. While both place stories in Texas and include -- gosh! -- guns, horses and women, I think such a comparison says more about a coastal, urban, somewhat effete impression of content, rather than any understanding of what Machart appears to be trying to do. I would put Machart, again, in the Harrison/MacLean/maybe McMurtry tradition -- a tradition perhaps originating in the plainstyle of Stephen Crane and Sherwood Anderson, not the writerly baroque of a Faulkner/McCarthy.

But whatever. Machart deserves to be read and enjoyed for his own virtues, not praised by association and some presumed literary history context. It's very unusual to read something that offers both an historical portrait of a place, and a deep, complex, emotionally dangerous narrative of men and women living at risk -- at risk of their own desires, their own smallness in the face of a richly detailed nature, their own capacity or lack of capacity to have faith.

I am reminded of something C.S. Lewis wrote, on the role of art and its proper development:

"Even in literature and art no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."

I think Machart often achieves this honesty and hence a plainsong originality. The only blemishes that I experienced in reading this extraordinary debut were those moments of a writerly scene-setting, as he somewhat self-consciously seems to step back, remind himself to describe a warbler warbling, a horse heaving, etc., like they teach you in any writing class, but this is merely a personal objection, hardly a commentary on the novel's achievement. If you contemplate warmly the very quiet narratives of men and women in the open American space, across time, which are crucial elements of the Harrison and MacLean books mentioned above, you will rush home from work and sit quietly and read of these Bohemian Texans, and wish a beer might taste just that good after church or a day in the fields, again, and regret your inevitable arrival at the end of this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Novel Addressing the Power of Love and of Forgiveness..., November 3, 2010
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Emotionally gripping, vividly evocative of its setting, an unforgettable novel addressing family, resentment, and forgiveness... Even these superlatives are insufficient to describe Bruce Machart's incredible work "The Wake of Forgiveness." You will find yourself lost in the characters' lives and will walk beside them through the tumultuous nineteen years in which the novel takes place.

Set in Texas' rural Lavaca County, "The Wake of Forgiveness" begins with the birth of Karel Skala; his mother dies as he is born. His father, a hard and bitter man, is aptly described by Machart as he burns the mattress on which Karel's mother "... the only woman he'd ever been fond of..." has died. Unforgiving and unable to love, Vaclev Skala uses his four sons as draft animals, treating them less well than his prized racing stallion. Karel's only value to his father is his ability to ride that stallion and so, if he wins, add to Vaclev's land holdings. His father tells him "...you ain't good for nothing but riding..."

Vaclev is willing to do anything to gain land; one might say he is willing to sell his birthright for a mess of pottage. If his horse loses the race, his wager with Villasenor, a wealthy Mexican rancher, is that he will give his three oldest sons in marriage to Villasenor's daughters. In bartering his three oldest sons for land, Vaclev drives a wedge of resentment between Karel and his brothers. That fractured relationship will endure for years until a near-tragedy brings the brothers back together. Their reconciliation will allow each of the men to forgive one another and to claim their independence from the past.

Bruce Machart has created complex characters, who are or have been emotionally damaged. They are very human and very unforgettable. Karel, a man who longs for love and acceptance, tells a young woman she is like his mother - he has been inside her and then she will leave him. He dreams of having his mother touch him; he imagines that she has ridden while pregnant with him, that she has been touching him during those moments. At one point, Karel "...wanted his father's strap, the stinging and unambiguous urgency of its attention..." For that, is the `closest he will ever get to his father's touch.' Karel is able to overcome his past only when he has his own son. His realization, while watching a father and son hunt, that relationships are more than he has experienced is emotionally moving.

"The Wake of Forgiveness" is not a book to be read quickly and then cast aside. It is an extremely well-written novel that demands the reader's full attention; it will capture your imagination and hold you until its ending. At times, as bleak as the rural Texas landscape in which it is set, "The Wake of Forgiveness" is, in the end, a story of family and the redeeming value of love. I recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for an extraordinary reading experience - you will not be disappointed.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future." Paul Boese, October 6, 2010
The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart

A fantastic debut novel, this begins in the late 1800's with the birth of Vaclav Skala fourth son, Karel, and the death of his loving wife Klara during childbirth. We then jump to 1910 where Vaclav uses his four sons as he would horses to plow his fields. Vaclav keeps his horses rested and ready to race, the prize is a bet on a parcel of land. His youngest, Karel, is the rider in the race and he hasn't lost yet, that is until Guillermi Villasenor shows up with his three daughters. Villasenor has come to find his daughters a husband. Vaclav's three oldest sons are very pleased with what they see and are ready to marry them.

Villasenor challenges Vaclav to a race for a parcel of Vaclav's land. The race is set and Karel, his youngest son, and Graciela Villasenor's daughter will race her horse against Karel. The race will not turn out the way Vaclav expects as Karel loses to Graciela.

Now Vaclav is upset that Karel has lost and a fight ensues between Vaclav and his four sons. The three older sons fight against Vaclav and Karel. This fight causes a great strain on the relationship between Vaclav and his three older sons. It seems that Vaclav has much stronger feelings for Karel and Karel stays with and learns from his father as well as takes care of him until his untimely death.

Karel has married Sophie and has two daughters. Sophie is pregnant with their third child. Karel becomes a proud father of a baby boy. It seems that Karel is much closer to his children than his father was with him and his brothers.

The story jumps between the past and the future to encompass the way things were as they were growing up and what they've become in the future as adults.

What was once a seemingly happy family turns into a very strained relationship for all and as the book progresses a tragic turn of events brings the brothers and their wives back together.

The author did exceptionally well with the writing of this debut novel. I always felt that I was right there entwined in the events as they unfolded. I never lost interest as I read and highly recommend this book and will read other books authored by Bruce Machart.

I received an advance reading copy from Barnes & Noble for the First Look book club.
I also received a free ereader copy via Netgalley.com

You may also view this review @ [...]
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful story, fantastic debut, October 3, 2010
By 
Jessica Martinez (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
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Full disclosure: I received an advanced copy of The Wake of Forgiveness through Barnes & Noble's First Look book club.

I absolutely loved Bruce Machart's The Wake of Forgiveness. It's not a book I would have normally picked up off the shelf or taken home from the store, as at first glance it seems like it would just be a western and they just aren't my thing normally, but I'm so very glad that I got the opportunity to read it. Bruce's writing is wonderfully descriptive and he is fantastic at creating moments that you can picture in your mind with such clarity that it is nearly astounding. I have heard many comparisons of his writing to that of Cormac McCarthy, and I would have to agree.

The story itself is a look through time at the rougher days in Lavaca County, TX, at a family of boys raised by their hardened father (Vaclav Skala and his boys), and also at the adult life of the youngest son, Karel. The book alternates in sections between Karel's childhood and adult life, and you uncover bits and pieces of the story as they relate together as you read. We end up with a fascinating look at family, love, and ultimately, of course, forgiveness. The book is moving and powerful, and I would definitely recommend it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Novelist's Debut, September 25, 2010
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The beautiful lyrical writing in this book, about one of the Czech families who settled in Southern Texas shortly before the turn of the century, certainly got my attention. It's a great read and impossible to put down. It traces the history of the patriarch of the family, Vaclav Skala, and the four sons he bears, especially his oldest, Karel. The family goes from hardscrabble farming to raising fine horses with which they hold races and gamble with a neighboring family, gradually acquiring much of the land holdings of it. The details of the plot are well described in the other reviews, particularly the lead review. I'm trying to think of other great Texas novels I've read and Larry McMurtry is the only author who immediately comes to mind -- but that is Texas of the 1940s and 1950s, not seminal, and even "Horseman Pass By" (Hud) and "The Last Picture Show" do not begin to compare in quality to to this fictional historical novel. I was a bit annoyed by the author's practice of his frequent flashback chapters and am not quite sure what the purpose was or how well it works. On the other hand, who am I to be knocking this, as Time has never been linear to me, with past, present and future all existing contemporaneously as for myself. It's a very difficult technique author Bruce Machart attempts here and I will leave it to others to decide how well it works. But it is certainly one of the best 10 books I've read of many thousands in the past five years.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling read, May 10, 2011
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[note: plot spoilers]

Quite a few people have reviewed this book already, so I will limit myself to a few specific observations. I have rated this book four stars, which is a high grade for fiction from me since there is so much utter crap out there.

My own tastes run to tales of the collapse of people's hopes and dreams and the bleak existence that comes with adulthood (think Ethan Frome - I am a lot of fun at parties), so The Wake of Forgiveness was right up my alley.

A number of people have compared Machart to McCarthy and I have to agree. However, I see McCarthy as more of a prose minimalist, while Machart veers in the opposite direction, never using one adjective when three will do, and piling on the metaphors and similes. That's OK, but I can see why some reviewers think this is a bit overwritten. (I also note that one reviewer believes comparing Machart to McCarthy identifies me as "coastal, urban, and effete"; I guess I have to take my medicine...)

I confess I had a hard time completely understanding the central plot element. Why did Villasnor approach Skala for his sons' hands in marriage in the first place? What made this weird and bitter family stand out from any other in the region, especially since Villasnor is portrayed as wealthy, powerful, and ambitious? My gut feeling is that he would have looked for more promising matches for his daughters.

Another curiosity for me was that all the horse races were run at night, the racecourse lit by bonfires. Now, to be sure, this added greatly to the atmosphere and mood of these events, but it does strike me as odd that this community of hard bitten Texas farmers would have willingly participated in something so bizarre as racing horses in the dark.

But over all, I loved The Wake of Forgiveness. The characters were compelling, and the sense of time and place vivid. I read it straight through in a single weekend, staying up late in bed and then continuing as soon as I woke up the next morning. I will definitely be on the lookout for more from this promising author.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a difficult read in more ways than one, March 11, 2011
I found this book a challenge in sseveral ways. The storyline can be found in the other reviews. My comments are mainly that the time line of the book jumps around too much. One minute we are in 1895 and then to 1910, to 1924, 1898, then back to 1914 so the time line does not run smoothly, making the book somewhat disjointed. First the characters are young, then older, then young again, etc. In addition, the writing, itself, takes some getting used to as the sentences are often long with phrases that are interspersed in the sentence, which can break the continuity of the thought. I found it hard to get close to the characters as I was expending my energy trying to figure out what the author was trying to say.

While I get the story line of a father's strange relationship with his son, I found this to be a dark tale that was a long way from real forgiveness.
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The Wake of Forgiveness
The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart (Hardcover - October 21, 2010)
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