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The Whip: a novel inspired by the story of Charley Parkhurst Paperback – January 1, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 785 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Whip" is a skillful blend of fact and fiction. Kondazian’s fascinating portrayal of Charlotte 'Charley' Parkhurst delves into the complex character of a tough woman combating old-school tradition and unhealthy stereotypes. True-to-life description and a meticulous depiction of Parkhurst bring this gritty period to a degree of vividness rarely seen. The cinematic style utilizes all the senses; the world in which she survived unimaginable tragedy can be felt as well as seen in the mind’s eye. – Julia Ann Charpentier, Foreword Reviews, April 23, 2014

Kondazian leaves the complexities of Charley Parkhurst’s life of adventure and secrecy to the reader’s imagination. There is an openness about her writing that encourages the reader to expand on these complexities, rather than diminishing them with answers. Kondazian’s deft hand and sophisticated touch invites these complexities to live in the imagination…. While the setting of “The Whip” takes place over a century ago, the questions raised about the choices we make and their consequences on our lives remain pressing and relevant today….Kondazian weaves fiction and fact together seamlessly into a poignant and profound read. – Story Circle Book Reviews, Review by Dawn Wink.

Charley Parkhurst makes for a compelling main character. The Whip is very well researched (I loved all the historical tid-bits about piano legs, cat-hauling, and the stagecoach business itself), and Kondazian’s novel unfolds cinematically; you can almost feel the sun’s rays and smell the horse sweat. A truly fascinating novel of one woman’s determination and grit in the heart of the Old West. – Reader’s Favorite, Review by Kayti Nika Raet.

Kondazian has written a novel about the old West that feels authentic in almost every sweaty detail…. Her background as an actress helps her to convincingly render Charlotte’s transformation.…An engaging and authentic depiction of life in the California Gold Rush–era. – Kirkus Review.

Robin Weigert is able to portray Charlotte as both a man and a woman with very slight changes in her voice. She clearly defines the interesting set of characters in Charlotte’s life with changes in pitch, tone, and regional accents. In addition to Charlotte’s inner struggles and gender switches, the story hints of other women in the Old West who could not be self-reliant, respected, and independent as females. This ambitious plot, well performed, is based on a true story. – AudioFile Magazine.

A gripping page-turner explores themes of self-identity, forgiveness, and survival, and captivates the reader from multiple perspectives. – Advocate.com The Whip: Straddling Gender Roles in the Wild West Review by Nick Pachelli.

Karen Kondazian has allowed her imagination to weave Charley’s life into an intriguing pattern and done so in a fast-moving tale that quite possibly could be true. – Historical Novel Society Review by John Manhold

This quick-paced, wily tale is a fascinating blend of both fact and fiction that is sure to engage Western and historical fiction fans and readers. – Library Journal review by Keddy Ann Outlaw

A new novel takes one back to the legendary days of the American West based on a true story of Charley Darkey Parkhurst who died in 1880 and was celebrated as a one-eyed, tobacco-spitting, gold-rush era Wells Fargo driver, a famed California stage coach driver and outlaw killer. What wasn’t known was that Charley was a woman. Karen Kondazian has transformed his/her story into a novel, The Whip ($15.00, Hanson Publishing Group), a beautifully written story of the Old West that moves between the exploits of Charley and the heartbreak of his/her secret. Why did she choose to live as a man? It was a hard life as a “whip” as the early drivers were known. They were held in high regard. This is an entertaining and emotionally moving read. – Bookviews

The desire for vengeance knows no gender. "The Whip" is an old western novel inspired by the story of Charlotte 'Charley' Parkhurst', a woman living as man in the old west. Drawn out of her serene life in Rhode Island by the slaughter of her family, she chose to travel west and track the killer, dressing as a man and living as a man. Karen Kondazian brings forth a narrative flare to the story, making for a fun read that should prove all too difficult to put down, making "The Whip" a choice and much recommended read. — Midwest Book Review

You won't know what The Whip means until you read this fascinating book. It's a piece of the Old West, a part of America's past, told with amazing authenticity. — Thomas Fleming, New York Times best-selling author of Conquerors of the Sky

Like a nugget of gold pulled from the riffles is Karen Kondazian's debut novel The Whip. . . . It may be a book for the times. . . . We can all use a little cowboy wisdom about now and Charley Parkhurst may just be the gal to bring it. . . . The Whip, a thrilling and soul-searching read, raises questions about revenge and forgiveness as she takes the reader along dusty trails. Above all, this novel captures brilliantly the zeitgeist of the stagecoach era. — Art Kusnetz, San Francisco Books and Travel Magazine

One thing I really like about this job is that I get to discover promising new talent far outside of the world of agents, New York publishers, academics, and establishment book reviewers. Karen Kondazian's debut novel, The Whip, is in that category. Her well-written work, based on a true story, displays all the confidence of a seasoned novelist. I didn't detect one false note. . . . Try on The Whip. . . . I think you will get as caught up in it as I was. This is classic Americana. — Fred Beauford, New World Review

About the Author

THE WHIP is Karen Kondazian's debut novel. She is an award winning theatre actress and has starred in over fifty television shows and films, including the role of Kate Holliday in the TV movie, The Shootout at the OK Corral. Kondazian is also author of The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Hansen Publishing Group, LLC; First Edition edition (January 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1601823029
  • ISBN-13: 978-1601823021
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (785 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
THE TRUE LEGEND IN HISTORY ~

Brilliant and memorable are the lasting impressions you have after reading the final chapter of the debut novel, "THE WHIP" by Karen Kondazian. It is a novel commemorating a true legend of the Gold Rush Era in the person of a woman who survives the struggles of joblessness by reinventing herself.

Charlotte (Charley) Parkhurst was left in a basket at the door of an orphanage in Massachusetts on a cold day of March 1812. It is the baby's good fortune that the lonely boy Lee Colton, a four-year-old, enters her dark room and rocks the baby to sleep. For four years, the children are inseparable.

Management changes at the orphanage result in harsh disciplines that affect the personalities of the two children over the years. Charley is removed from the sewing-room, beaten, and escorted to the barn to break her spirit. Her mentor and surrogate father, the black stable-hand named Jonas, guides Charley. Her greatest success is caring for the strong-willed horse Beelzebub who challenges her with fiery eyes. She leaves the orphanage at age 16.

Mysterious events lead to a relationship and the birth of a beloved infant. Her joy is short-lived when Vigilantes murder her black partner and baby. Charley recognized one of the men fleeing and vowed to kill him.

Charley disguises as a man and applies for a job as stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo. Extremely skilled at the whip and handling the team of horses, Charley wins a competition and trip to San Francisco to even the score with that nameless vigilante.

The historical novel `The Whip' by Karen Kondazian is a page-turner with drama that is unpredictable. The language and situations are focused and thought provoking. The book and ebook are available at all booksellers at an attractive price. Amazon: [...] The Whip
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My book club chose this book because it appeared to be the fascinating story of a woman living out her life as a male stagecoach driver (a Whip, as they were called). It's based on a real woman who had accomplished many things, not the least of which was competing in a man's world and succeeding brilliantly.

The story is a piece of historical fiction, which can be done well, or poorly. Had I not gone and looked up what is known about the actual life of Charlotte Parkhurst, I may have like the book more. Turns out, this version by Karen Kondazian is much more fictional than historical and has a lot of completely contrived details. In seeing an interview with Kondazian, she says that, as an actress, she imagines and improvises, creating a backstory for characters and she utilized this creativity to write the book. She apparently got very creative for this particular story.

In the book, Charley lives with a black man, loses him & her interracial baby to terrible violence, goes on a nearly lifelong search to avenge their death, and in the meantime has an affair with a con man, the only person she seemingly trusted with her secret. She rescues a woman and child, who then come to see her as the perfect father/husband, only to be sorely dissappointed.

This was all fun reading, and quite entertaining. But, when I realized that so very much of it was completely unfounded and probably written in order to make the story much more provocative than reality, it was a bit dissappointing. In truth, Charley must have had a fascinating, but secretive life. Therefore, there is little known about her that is factual.

If you want a Wild West tale about a woman who takes on life as a man, and can see it for what it is as fiction, you'll enjoy this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
i enjoyed this book because it was a true story and it held my interest. we are reading this for out book club. glad someone requested that we read it.
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I enjoyed this read. It was something different, and for me the story flowed well. It is only vaguely based on a real character, as much isn't know of the real person. But I enjoyed the author's thoughts of what may have taken place to get Charley to the place where she was living this life. It did get me thinking about real lives that were lived this way for probably many more women than we know. Being a women in those times and especially in the 'wild' west was hazardous! Basically two choices...wife or prostitute. Would be so interesting to know about the real Charley and how she got to where she did driving a stagecoach. But since there are no records or journals of her left behind we can only guess. And this author did a pretty good job of it.
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Format: Paperback
"...he gave me the unique understanding of how adventure, freedom and loneliness seem to go hand in hand." --The Whip, Karen Kondazian

Throughout the mid 1880s, Charley Parkhurst lived the rough male life of a whip, stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo. He earned high praise from his bosses, his friends the other whips, and passengers for his expertise as a driver and the consistent safety of his passengers. Then, upon his death, much to the surprise of all--it was discovered that Charley was a woman.

Inspired by this true story, award-winning writer and actress Karen Kondanzian opens the door to a life of courage and mystery in her novel, The Whip. Drawing from newspaper articles and quotations from people who know Charley Parkhurst, Kondazian weaves fiction and fact together seamlessly into a poignant and profound read.

Tragic events of Parkhurst's early life lead her to seek revenge and make the choice to live as a man--a choice that both opens doors of opportunity otherwise locked to women and binds her to a life of deception. Assuming the costume and persona of a man, Parkhurst became known for her superb handling of horses and the safety of her passengers. Kondazian brings to life Parkhurst's experiences as a woman to create a world, inviting the reader to continually consider, "What would I have done?"

Kondazian leaves the complexities of this life of adventure and secrecy to the reader's imagination. There is an openness about her writing that encourages the reader to expand on these complexities, rather than diminishing them with answers. Kondazian's deft hand and sophisticated touch invites these complexities to live in the imagination. While the setting of The Whip takes place over a century ago, the questions raised about the choices we make and their consequences on our lives remain pressing and relevant today.

by Dawn Wink
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
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