martedì 13 maggio 2014

Review: The Gunslinger's Companion by Michael De Stefano

The Gunslinger's Companion
Michael De Stefano

Born into a band of roughneck migrants, Pablo Cordero spends his youth harvesting wheat under an unforgiving sun on the dusty plains of the Midwest. After witnessing the rape and subsequent death of his mother, and the slaying of a ruthless landowner, Pablo breaks free from the band and begins his unlikely ascension into society. There, he discovers the strength of his own spirit, and love that transcends Heaven and earth. 


This is the story of Pablo Cordero and his family.
Pablo lives in Brownsville, Texas with his daughter Martina and his beloved granddaughter Annamaria he calls Cherianna. To save the little girl from the ugly road that took her mother decides to take her on a farm in Kentucky where he had worked as a young man. While it is on the train with her little grandson remembers his past. Pablo was born in 1879 of migrant parents working Mexican. His family leaves Mexico for fear of civil war and took refuge in America. It 's so that they meet and fall in love  his mother Dolci and his father Juan Carlos Cordero that he has never known. As a young boy finds himself living with a group of migrant working hard and trying to defend his beautiful and alone mother  from the violent attentions of men. He saved her twice from rape and decides to take her mother away from their group and try to live alone. But the mother did not make it and dies. He finds himself alone at age 14 to try to survive. Find job, new friends, fall in love, will suffer again, fight fight...
The story is really well written, the author alternates between the present time with the memories of the protagonist but you never lose the thread. It 's a captivating and moving story, very reminiscent of the atmosphere of the books by Steinbeck. The characters are very well characterized. Pablo Cordero is a strong man, a hard worker who has never given up, which tries to make the lives of others marvelous: first the mother, then his wife and daughter and at the end of the beloved Cherianna. And is adorable little and tender Annamaria: a smart little girl, sweet but with a strong and brave character.

It 's a must-read, a historical and sentimental novel, beautifully illustrating the life of migrant workers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

4 stars  ****
“Why Mr. Flynn, what brings you out here to the barn at this time of day?” asked Irma. Johnny peered through the hay over Irma’s shoulder at Flynn, who was standing inside the barn door. It was a simple enough question that Irma had posed and was pleasant in its delivery, but Johnny had a clear sense that Flynn made his mother anxious.
“I’m surprised with as hard as you work you’re not starving about now,” added Irma, as though she was willing Flynn to leave the barn in favor of supper. She ended her remark with a contrived chuckle, which served to reveal just how wary she was of Flynn.
“What the hell would you know about hard work?” snapped Flynn. His tone carried an abundance of disdain toward Irma and what he perceived as her lofty and comfortable station.
Like Cornelius, Flynn believed the family farm, a place which for many years he coveted, would one day be passed on to him. He harbored plenty of bitterness toward Cornelius, and looked for reasons to harbor contempt for that which he loved. He saw Irma as the kind of wife he might have had…genteel, sweet, and pretty. It made him bitter, and over time his bitterness turned to hatred. He saw whatever privilege Irma enjoyed as coming at the hands of his long laborious days. And although Irma was certainly no stranger to hard work, she thought it prudent not to challenge Flynn on his perception of her, especially on the heels of his belligerent tone. 
“I suppose I don’t know very much about hard work,” she humored him. 
“You suppose?” scolded Flynn. “If you don’t know about hard work, then maybe it’s best to keep your mouth shut!” He followed his coarse remark by delivering a backhand that landed on Irma’s cheek and sent her sprawling to the ground.
It was now apparent to Irma why Flynn turned up in the barn “at this time of day.” He had been waiting for this opportunity ever since he arrived at Crow’s Farm begging for a job. How many times had he heard Irma’s lovely voice ringing out across the acres? Corneeeelius. And how many times had he seen the love in Cornelius’ eyes when he was summoned by the sweetness of her voice. With each passing day, Flynn was pushed nearer and nearer to a place known as one’s limits.
Flynn was a foul tempered youth whose disposition had only worsened with age. Now, all his wretchedness and misery, which was almost too much for a single human soul to possess, even for one so distorted as Flynn’s, was about to become unleashed on Irma. He raised her from the floor by her hair, then brutally bent her over a bundled stack of hay. “Let me hear you call Cornelius, now, you dirty little cunt,” he taunted.
At first, Irma wanted to scream with the slim hope that Gabriel and the others might hear her and come running. What stopped her, though, was Johnny. It was when Flynn slammed her delicate figure onto the bundled stack and lifted up her dress that she discovered Johnny’s terrified eyes peeking out from under the hay.
Johnny’s presence, no matter how ineffectual had it been known to Flynn, was of great comfort to Irma. His eyes, which Irma could have picked out of a crowd of thousands, were beacons of hope and reminders of all that was still good in the world. Despite the vileness of her tormenter, she smiled.
At first, Irma’s idyllic expression confused Johnny. Then, as if struck, he understood. He understood as though he was right inside Irma’s head reading from her very thoughts. The warmth of Irma’s smile—the loveliness that blossomed from her eyes and soul—for the first time Johnny understood how much a part of it he was. I can take all that the world can throw my way, as long as I have my dear, sweet boy by my side. So lie still, my son. Lie perfectly still and don’t make a sound, for I want you to grow big and strong, and to chase your dreams. I want to embrace everything that is you, and one day we’ll walk arm in arm under a beautiful sunset. We’ll feel the warm rays on our face, and together we’ll understand that the world is good. So you lie still and don’t make a sound, and soon the bad man will be gone


Author’s notes: Big or small, some have an adventure gene that at times begs to chuck it all, hit the open road, allowing life to unfold one day at a time, as an ironical and chaotic world would see fit. I have no statistics to bear this out, but imagine nowadays it’s a minute percentage who take such risks with no certainty of reward. I’m not in that minute percentage, so therefore have created a character to do my dirty work, live the fantasy…to be a game changer!
Michael De Stefano is from Philadelphia and makes his home in Cinnaminson, New Jersey. He is the author of The Prodigy of Saint Pete’s—the story of Andy Trumaine, an orphaned boy whose gift to others as he journeys through life is his good sense of the world; and In the Time of Their Restlessness—a tumultuous coming of age story in urban America in the 1970s.


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