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Coal Black Horse by [Olmstead, Robert]
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Coal Black Horse Kindle Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews

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Length: 242 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Civil War has provided the backdrop for several authors in recent years: Michael Shaara, Robert Hicks, E.L. Doctorow, Howard Bahr, and Charles Frazier, to name a few. Robert Olmstead can take his place among the best of them with this stirring tale of a 14-year-old boy's loss of innocence as he follows the horrors of war.

The boy is Robey Childs, sent by his mother to bring his father home from the War. She has "the sight," and when she "sees" that General Thomas Jackson is dead, she tells Robey "Thomas Jackson has been killed... There's no sense in this continuing... This was a mistake a long time before we knew it, but a mistake nonetheless. Go and find your father and bring him back to his home." She sews a coat for him that is blue on one side and gray on the other, tells him to trust no one and sends him off.

He is ill-prepared for all that will happen to him. When his horse pulls up lame, he walks her to the blacksmith, but she is unfit for the task ahead. The blacksmith offers Robey a horse on loan until his task is completed. "It was coal black, stood sixteen hands, and it was clear to see the animal suffered no lack of self possession." Indeed, the horse is more fit to do his job than is Robey. Olmstead creates an iconic horse, but never anthrpomorphizes or romanticizes the relationship between boy and horse. When they are separated, Robey is truly at sea. When they are together, they move as one.

Robey encounters every kind of evil, venality, cruelty, squalor, and depravity imaginable. He is hardened beyond his years by what he sees. There is a battle scene as horrific as any ever written, graphic and frightening. "There were enough limbs and organs, heads and hands, ribs and feet to stitch together body after body and were only in need of thread and needle and a celestial seamstress." Robey is changed forever, but never dehumanized. Olmstead leaves the reader in no doubt about the unconscionable ravages of war; he also shows us the redemption that such suffering can bring. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

Olmstead's new work (after Stay Here with Me) is a convulsive, bloody Civil War tale that tracks a boy's search for his father on the battlefield at Gettysburg. At 14, Robey Childs is on the cusp of manhood when he sets off from the family farm at his mother's behest to find his soldier father and bring him home. A sympathetic farmer loans Robey an uncommonly beautiful and sturdy black horse. On the road, Robey passes carts carrying the maimed and dead, and bands of Native Americans and runaway slaves. A chain of horrific trials begins for Robey when a man dressed as a woman shoots him and steals the horse. He's taken prisoner as a suspected spy, witnesses a girl's rape and is caught up in a carnage-drenched raid. However, he survives the attack, is reunited with the stolen horse and sets out again, days later finding his father on the battlefield, mortally wounded. Robey can't save his father, but he can try to save the raped girl, Rachel, from further violence. His return home and his testimony to what he saw forms a powerful, redemptive narrative. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product details

  • File Size: 863 KB
  • Print Length: 242 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1565126017
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; Reprint edition (May 20, 2008)
  • Publication Date: May 20, 2008
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004Z78XDA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #153,494 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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