Customer Reviews for

The Wake of Forgiveness

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

Some books are meant to be remembered; this is one of them.

This book is so well written that the words leap from the page and make you an active participant in the story, rather than a voyeur. Every page makes you think more deeply about each of the characters. They almost invite themselves to be examined.
The story begins in ...
This book is so well written that the words leap from the page and make you an active participant in the story, rather than a voyeur. Every page makes you think more deeply about each of the characters. They almost invite themselves to be examined.
The story begins in the late 1800's and continues over a span of 29 years. The lawlessness, cruelty and hardship, that the author describes is palpable and his prose so powerful that it seemed to reach out and suck me into it, making me aware of the horrors of the characters lives as if I were actually there, in the moment, witnessing what they experienced. I could almost feel the tug of the yoke on the fields, the kicks to the animals, the beatings, the labor pains of the women, and even the sadness of heartache; such was the power of the words on the page that the tension lived inside me too.
Although the subject matter is difficult because of the violence and deeply flawed characters, there is occasionally a hint of softness, kindness and a longing for tenderness. In those moments you can catch your breath.
As I continued to read, it became harder. The brutality of the book is so penetrating that I found myself hoping there would be some kind of relief, some moment of redemption for some of the characters and some kind of retribution for others so that I could feel my feet on solid ground again. I would root for one or another character's success and then reverse myself when the character study deepened.
The book creates tension from page one and interest grows with each passing page to find out what is going to happen but with the interest comes the fear of what you will eventually learn about the unpredictable, too quick to react, violently brutal and competitive characters. Although there are those gentler moments which interject some calmness and allow the reader a small respite from the constant emotional seesaw, the author pushes the envelope in every scene in which men are interacting with each other.
Having finished the book, I can only come to one conclusion. It may be hard to read it because of its darkness, but read it you must, because this author has the power to make the words on the page live; this book is truly alive; it breathes with every breath caught in your throat as what you read seizes you with surprise and/or mystifies you as you become more and more enmeshed in the tale, completely in awe of the power of the written word and enrapt by the characters lives and travails.
This book is so well worth the effort to read. It would really lend itself to the analysis of a discussion group. There are endless topics to discuss, women's rights, physical abuse, equal rights, love and loss, dysfunctional family relationships, heartbreak, uncontrolled violence, vengeance, redemption, and forgiveness just to name a few. An analysis of the writer's style and his ability to almost take the reader hostage, would be rewarding, as well.
My recommendation is steel yourself and read it.

posted by thewanderingjew on September 19, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Difficult time getting into this book

I am an avid reader but I had a very hard time getting into this book. It was probably because I didn't like the characters. I thought most of the men were cruel and the story was harsh and a little slow. I enjoy finding new authors but I didn't really care for this sto...
I am an avid reader but I had a very hard time getting into this book. It was probably because I didn't like the characters. I thought most of the men were cruel and the story was harsh and a little slow. I enjoy finding new authors but I didn't really care for this story or author.

posted by blugrasgroupie on October 15, 2010

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  • Posted September 19, 2010

    Some books are meant to be remembered; this is one of them.

    This book is so well written that the words leap from the page and make you an active participant in the story, rather than a voyeur. Every page makes you think more deeply about each of the characters. They almost invite themselves to be examined.
    The story begins in the late 1800's and continues over a span of 29 years. The lawlessness, cruelty and hardship, that the author describes is palpable and his prose so powerful that it seemed to reach out and suck me into it, making me aware of the horrors of the characters lives as if I were actually there, in the moment, witnessing what they experienced. I could almost feel the tug of the yoke on the fields, the kicks to the animals, the beatings, the labor pains of the women, and even the sadness of heartache; such was the power of the words on the page that the tension lived inside me too.
    Although the subject matter is difficult because of the violence and deeply flawed characters, there is occasionally a hint of softness, kindness and a longing for tenderness. In those moments you can catch your breath.
    As I continued to read, it became harder. The brutality of the book is so penetrating that I found myself hoping there would be some kind of relief, some moment of redemption for some of the characters and some kind of retribution for others so that I could feel my feet on solid ground again. I would root for one or another character's success and then reverse myself when the character study deepened.
    The book creates tension from page one and interest grows with each passing page to find out what is going to happen but with the interest comes the fear of what you will eventually learn about the unpredictable, too quick to react, violently brutal and competitive characters. Although there are those gentler moments which interject some calmness and allow the reader a small respite from the constant emotional seesaw, the author pushes the envelope in every scene in which men are interacting with each other.
    Having finished the book, I can only come to one conclusion. It may be hard to read it because of its darkness, but read it you must, because this author has the power to make the words on the page live; this book is truly alive; it breathes with every breath caught in your throat as what you read seizes you with surprise and/or mystifies you as you become more and more enmeshed in the tale, completely in awe of the power of the written word and enrapt by the characters lives and travails.
    This book is so well worth the effort to read. It would really lend itself to the analysis of a discussion group. There are endless topics to discuss, women's rights, physical abuse, equal rights, love and loss, dysfunctional family relationships, heartbreak, uncontrolled violence, vengeance, redemption, and forgiveness just to name a few. An analysis of the writer's style and his ability to almost take the reader hostage, would be rewarding, as well.
    My recommendation is steel yourself and read it.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 26, 2010

    The Wake of Forgiveness

    Like the sureness and the certainty of the cycles in life on the sprawling, dusty ranches in late nineteenth century- early twentieth century Texas, this book meanders through the passages of time and story. The prose of Bruce Machart's first novel reads like poetry, each word stuffed with meaning, carefully chosen, and contributing concisely and exactly to descriptions painted for the reader, as with the surest strokes of the brush of an experienced artist.


    This story, starting and ending in the same breath of time, winds through twenty-nine years in the life of Karel Skala, last-born son of Vaclav, Czech Texas rancher, and Klara, his mother who died from the struggle of his birth. Never knowing the loving tenderness of his mother's touch, Karel grew up with hard work and an affinity for horses. Raised by a hard, calloused father who believed that there "ain't nothing that ain't someone's fault"*, and literally yoked to his three brothers to work the even harder, more calloused land, we follow along as the motherless boy works, struggles, suffers, and learns how to become a man.


    The most remarkable aspect of this book is the author's exceptional descriptions. Whether he is describing the arduous but revered Texas landscape or the feelings of one of his characters, his words ring true and perfect, describing the indescribable, finding a way to say something that no one ever thought to put into words. He describes experiences common to human beings that, although universally felt, were previously left implicit and buried within habitual existence.


    The author's development of his characters is thorough and endearing, leaving the reader to feel as if these "ghosts of his imagination"* were personal acquaintances. Each character is finely tuned, his every action consistent with his personality and history.


    The author does make the reader work though. Some of the intricately-wrought descriptions tend to be a little too long and cumbersome, often requiring several readings before they can be understood. But they are well worth the effort.


    Another challenge that the reader faces are the major time shifts that occur throughout the book. Beginning and ending with the birth of our main character, Karel, chapters oscillate in time, forcing the reader to remember that which happened in the last chapter dealing with that particular time period. The flashbacks within each time frame can also prove to be confusing. But these inconveniences also add to the continuity and value of the story, reminding us that time does in fact roll along, the past mixing with the present, all wrapped into a tight package called a life.


    I feel honored to have experienced Mr. Machart's tale, and I am sure that it will be a very long time before it will be "surrendered to the whitewash of forgetting."*



    * Bruce Machart's words from THE WAKE OF FORGIEVNESS.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A masterpiece!

    From cover to cover this book is amazing. You will go on an amazing journey with a family that struggles with showing love and care, but deep down the bonds of family are strong. You will be taken back in time and find the book hard to put down. A masterpiece for all generations!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 31, 2010

    A Brilliant, Beautiful Novel

    This was a brilliant, beautiful novel.

    Literary fiction fans will want to read this book, and it should win some major awards. The prose is gorgeous and graphic. Though the subject matter is more of a "guy's book," I could not put it down. The setting in rural Texas at the turn of the 20th century and the masculine tone of the novel is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy, but the novel has a rich, passionate story and characters. The dialog is brutally authentic, and the characters communicate with the barest of glances or blows or both.

    The scenes of this novel are huge, incredibly intense and dramatic. I found myself glued to the pages of this novel and riveted by the action. I would then need to put it aside for a bit to decompress before diving into the next long passage.

    The Wake of Forgiveness is rife with imagery of blood, water, spit, fire, birth, death and gaping wounds. A priest finds himself with a smashed vial of holy water and his own blood. There's the specter of an empty tomb and a daughter thought dead but mercifully resurrected. An English teacher would have a field day with this book. I'm glad I could just enjoy this novel, and I can't wait for a film version of it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Beautifully Executed and Gripping Novel

    Karel Skala is the youngest son of Klara and Vaclav, born in 1895 on the same night his mother dies while struggling to birth him. Karel's father, a Czech immigrant and a rough and violent man who has made a living off the Texas land of Lavaca County, only becomes more hardened after the death of his wife. He turns away from the son he blames for her death and immerses himself in the land. This is a man who harnesses his sons to a plow to work his fields (causing them to develop perpetually kinked necks), and accumulates his land by sitting Karel atop a horse to race against his nearest neighbor's son.

    Bruce Machart's debut novel The Wake of Forgiveness is about Karel and his father, about the bonds of family and the crevices in sibling relationships, about the Texas land and the men and women who work it, and about love, loss and redemption. Machart writes in a non linear fashion, weaving back and forth from the late nineteenth century, to 1910 (when Karel is fifteen years old), to 1924 (when Karel is a grown man, married with his own children). His prose is poetic and balanced, intense and captivating, violent and heartbreaking. This is a big, sprawling book like the Texas landscape itself.

    I found myself enthralled by Machart's book. I loved how he crafted his characters, adding layers to them as the novel progresses. When a rich Mexican arrives in Lavaca County with his three desirable, raven haired daughters, a horse race is organized between Karel and Graciela (one of the daughters) with either land or marriage at stake - depending on who wins the race. The interaction between these two characters on the eve of the race is just another fine example of Machart's talent to create tension while unveiling another aspect of character.

    ""Well," says Karel, "seems only fair that you tell me your name, don't it? Before you leave me in the dust, I mean."

    She turns the horse back at him, her eyes so deep and full of their dark allure that Karel imagines she could pull him out of his boots and into the saddle with nothing more than a look. She curls a few strands of the horse's mane around her finger and wets her lips with her tongue, and, before she gives her horse a heel and gallops him into the early morning fields, she leans down over Karel such that her hair brushes against his face and he breathes her in and she smells of lavender and of beeswax and of sweet feed, and then her voice is in his ear and she's whispering: "Ask me Saturday, and I'll tell you it's Skala."" - from the ARC of The Wake of Forgiveness, page 35 -

    Machart's writing is some of the finest I have read in a long time. Dialogue, setting, plot, character.all are fully developed. Machart captures the wide open spaces of Texas, the hard work of farming and ranching, and the beauty of a horse running.all with gorgeous writing that takes the reader's breath away. This novel is about the troubled relationship between a boy and his father, and the sibling rivalry between brothers who suffer beneath the unrelenting hand of their father. It is also about the human heart's capacity for love and forgiveness amid hardship.

    I would not be at all surprised if The Wake of Forgiveness shows up on the literary prize lists in 2011. It is a gripping drama beautifully executed with unforgettable characters. This is one I highly recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 30, 2010

    Excellent book!

    It's been quite a long time since a novel affected me as strongly as did Bruce Machart's The Wake of Forgiveness. Each new chapter hit me again and again from beginning to end as I followed the years of Karel Skala's life in a home dominated by a cold-hearted father. Somehow Karel, through determination and wisdom beyond his years, manages to make a good life for himself and regain his family ties. Don't pass this one up!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 25, 2010

    Great Book

    I loved this book. I absolutely loved the way it was written. I could literally see the scenes in my mind unfolding as I was reading the words on the page. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone because it is well worth the read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Beautifully Written Novel

    The story unfolds against a harsh and rugged Texas terrain in the late 19th century. The beloved wife of immigrant farmer Vaclav Scala dies while giving birth to their fourth son, Karel. Over the course of years, we see Vaclav evolve from a stern but caring individual to one that will harness his four sons to a plow and work them until the point of disfigurement. The story follows the lives of the four Scala boys as they grow into young men. At one time bonded by blood of brotherhood and the yoke of the plow, a treasonous act finds Karel alone. Karel has to choose between the paths in his life that will make the difference of becoming like his father, or breaking away and becoming the man he knows he should be. This book is about atonement of mistakes and the benevolence of forgiveness. This is a story that at times is emotionally gut wrenching and difficult to read, but it is not bleak. Even in the darkest periods of the story, there is always hope for the characters as they deal with the unfortunate hands that fate metes out. Although the sentence structure at times is complex, do not become distracted by the structure, just enjoy the content. The author also employs the technique of switching from one time period to another. Initially this may cause some confusion and angst but eventually the reader is able to see the development of characters and situations as they evolve throughout the story. This is a beautifully written chronicle. The prose is so rich in the reader is literally drawn into the story. Not only does the writing target the emotional senses, but also the physical senses of sound, sight and touch. Once in a while a book is written that is heads and shoulders above the rest. The Wake of Forgiveness is just such a book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2010

    Read this book!

    The Wake of Forgiveness is a great debut novel by Bruce Machart, with unforgettable characters, a compelling plot, and beautiful imagery and language. It is sure to be a best seller! I recommend it highly, even to readers who may not usually gravitate towards this genre.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great debut! Wonderful new voice!

    Set in rural Texas at the turn of the century "The Wake of Forgiveness" is a story about Karel Skala, his family and their struggles in life. It is full of characters with sad histories and personality flaws. The story relates to the consequences of violent acts, the pain of a family torn apart, hardened by tragedy and conflict and separated by bitterness. Yet there is strength, hope and redemption that leads the reader through this family saga. Bruce Machart has written a wonderful story, with vivid descriptions,that will stay with you long past the last page. It is a book that I will reread because of the rich language. I highly recommend it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2010

    Exceptional read!

    Bruce's book was hard to read as it centered on a family where the children were used as labor and there was cruelty throught the book. However, the author is a master of painting vivid landscapes and weather where he puts the reader there in his book. You can feel the dust, the heat, the emotions that go on that are classically written. My one wish is the author conyinue this book with the next generation of Skalas, of Karel Skala and his son, of finding Raymond who ran away after setting fire to a barn and stable. Texas, back in the early 1900's was an unlawful place and Bruce made that clear just by writing about two families. This book would be great for book club discussions and for those readers who have an open mind as this book will wow you!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2012

    Great read- check it out!

    I'm a huge McCarthy fan and was enticed to read this book when I saw the comparisons to him. I think the praise for this book is well deserved. I loved the wilting style - the author can certainly turn a phrase. I also found the story very compelling. If you like great writing and great story telling you can't go wrong with this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2011

    Love this book!

    This is a truely well written book. The descriptions make me feel like I am in the life that is being decribed. I lived on a horse/cattle ranch when I was a child. It was hard work & wonderful life. There is a lot of cruelty but that was the way adults treated there children unforturnately.
    I got this from the library but intend on buying it so i can pass it on.

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  • Posted January 21, 2011

    Poetic, Masterful, Haunting

    I received an ARC of this book and immediately fell in love with the language. Then I had to put it down to ensure I completed my upcoming book club read, Olive Kitteridge, the Pulitzer prize winner, on time. As stunning as that latter literary triumph was, the whole time I was reading it I kept yearning to get back to The Wake of Forgiveness. When I finally did, I was not disappointed. The writing style is gorgeous, full of sensory detail. The weaving back and forth in time is masterful and effective. The losses and betrayals are aching and haunting. Other than an ending that didn't quite wrap things up in a manner I would have preferred, this book earns my hearty recommendation. I can't wait to see what the author comes out with next.

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  • Posted December 9, 2010

    Hands down, my favorite book of 2010!

    The Wake of Forgiveness is a beautifully written story of hope and forgiveness set in the harsh landscape of Texas at the turn of the century.

    The book opens with the death of Vaclav Skala's wife as she gives birth to their fourth son. Utterly bereft Skala reverts to the brutal and unforgiving man he was before he married. He raises his sons with an iron fist, saving any kindness for the horses he shrewdly races to win his neighbor's land. Karel, the youngest son, grows up without ever having felt a loving touch, but his skill riding his father's race horses gives him something to hold onto. As the boys get older the balance of power begins to shift until one night when the last horse race determines the fate of all of them.

    Wake of Forgiveness was, hands down, my favorite book of 2010. Machart's gorgeous prose perfectly evoked the dusty, rough, hard-bitten life of Texas in the early 1900's. He is really one of those rare writers who pulled me into the setting and made me feel the physical reality of the story. What really made this book shine for me was the fact that Machart always allows his characters a ray of hope, a chance for redemption, and the opportunity to change their own lives. In the end, Wake of Forgiveness isn't about the violence and desperation, but rather about the love, determination, and hard work that can beat them. I plan on giving this book to everyone I know!

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  • Posted November 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Compelling,Riveting,& Gut-wrenching

    Machart's syle of writing (run-on sentences...1960's English teachers be damned) brings to life the hardships & coarseness of the land & the people of Texas at the turn of the century. While a coming of age story it also reveals how a man can forgive the unforgivable.Karel's sense of loss is as ever-present as his father's plug of tobacco. It is a rare novel indeed where the author's timbre so matches the subject matter. Highly recommended!!

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  • Posted November 1, 2010

    Read This Book

    I read this book a few months ago & have continued to reflect on it. The setting & characters continue to resound in my subconscious. Bruce Machart has a unique talent & ability to transport & place the reader directly into a setting. I would urge anyone on the brink to take the chance & read this book. It's one of the best I've read this year.

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  • Posted November 1, 2010

    This is a book to be read for the writing.

    The Wake of Forgiveness is the best book that I have read lately. That is because of the masterful way the Machart uses words to paint mind pictures. This isn't a pleasant story, and at times it is harsh and brutal. Machart writes in layers. A quick read reveals the basic plot, but I would go back and reread sections and find details and nuances that made the characters and setting come alive. This is an excellent book that I highly recommend. Take your time reading it to enjoy the writing.

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  • Posted October 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Thought provoking and beautiful prose - A must read

    "The Wake of Forgiveness" is a touching and haunting novel about the impact of abuse and how it can tear a family apart and bring it back together. Karel Skala and his three brothers suffered horrendous abuse at the hands of their father, Vaclav, at the turn of the century in Texas. Karel's brothers escape their father's cruelty through marriage to three sisters, one of whom Karel loves. The novel documents the relationships of fathers and sons, brothers, husbands and wives, mothers and sons. Mr. Machart shows that the bonds of family are sometimes stronger than the strain we put on them and that there it is possible to forgive even the most cruel injustices. Mr. Machart writes with a clear and simple elegance. His prose is inspiring and his plot and characters are compelling. This is not a book for the faint of heart. The subject matter can be brutal, but the telling of the story is tender and heartfelt. This is a great selection for a book club. There are numerous discussion topics and different readers will have different takes on the plot and characters. This book will inspire a great discussion. This is not a book I would typically choose for myself and I thank B&N and Mr. Machart for showcasing this book in the B&N First Look Series. I hope to see more titles from this amazing author.

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  • Posted October 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Beautifully evocative writing, great story.

    Full disclosure: I received an advanced copy of The Wake of Forgiveness through B&N'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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