The Wake Of Forgiveness

( 153 )

Overview

This accomplished debut novel from Bruce Machart has drawn critical raves. In 1895 Texas, Karel Skala enters the world while his mother dies in childbirth. Fifteen years later, guilt-stricken Karel puts his family's fortunes on the line in a horse race against a powerful Spanish patriarch."Machart's moving story unfolds lyrically and sensually, with little fanfare, as his thoughtful prose propels a character-driven story about family, morality, and redemption."—Publishers Weekly...

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Overview

This accomplished debut novel from Bruce Machart has drawn critical raves. In 1895 Texas, Karel Skala enters the world while his mother dies in childbirth. Fifteen years later, guilt-stricken Karel puts his family's fortunes on the line in a horse race against a powerful Spanish patriarch."Machart's moving story unfolds lyrically and sensually, with little fanfare, as his thoughtful prose propels a character-driven story about family, morality, and redemption."—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781449844424
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 3/22/2011
  • Format: MP3
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Ships to U.S.and APO/FPO addresses only.

Meet the Author

Bruce Machart
Bruce Machart

BRUCE MACHART's fiction has appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story, Glimmer Train, Story, One-Story, and elsewhere, and has been anthologized in Best Stories of the American West. A graduate of the MFA program at Ohio State University, he currently lives and teaches in Houston.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 153 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(37)

4 Star

(54)

3 Star

(40)

2 Star

(14)

1 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 153 Customer Reviews
  • 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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2010

    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 story or author.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2010

    would not recommend

    This book was a study in the cruelty of a man...from his birth where he was rejected by his father, to his growing years without the love of a mother or father, to his coming of age. The main character knows no love growing up and knows not how to love in his life. The timeline in the book jumps around in crucial points in the plot...making it more disturbing and disjointed. I did not enjoy this book and would not recomment it.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • 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 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Difficult 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 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.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Dark and Depressing

    I really wanted to like this book much more than I did. The writing is beautifully descriptive. However, I found the storyline to be dark and depressing. The time line goes back and forth and I found myself having to go back and figure out what time period I was now in. The flow was confusing to me. There were some rather descriptive moments of child abuse and animal abuse that were just too much for me. All in all I would say the writing is beautiful in spots. The author has a wonderful way with words but this just wasn't the book for me. I really wanted to like it more.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2010

    Recommend--but not a book I would have picked out for myself!

    I read this book through FL and finished it in two days. It's a very interesting read, however, there are some areas that might not be appealing to all. The book had a jumping timeline making it hard to follow, and the beginning was a little difficult to trudge through. Halfway through it becomes an easier read and more enjoyable in that sense. None of the characters are likeable. Cruelty, violence, infidelity and abuse is rapid throughout. However, the morbidity of the novel pulls you in and it's like slowing down while passing an accident...you have to see what happens! This is definitely not a book I would have picked out for myself, but I'm glad for the FL opportunity. It was something different from the norm and opened up me up to other possibilities. I would consider reading another novel from this author in the future.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 24, 2010

    Too dark for me, but well written and descriptive

    While I personally found the characters unlikable and the overall story depressing, it was well written and the scenes were descriptive and very easy to visualize. I would recommend it to people from Texas interested in their history, from people who don't need as much of a feel good or at least hopeful story as I do, and for fans of dark authors.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2010

    Intriguing plot

    This book was so different from anything I've read in ages, and it was a most intriguing plot! The prose was quite remarkable and the characters were intensely drawn. The reader was drawn into the lifestyle of this small town in TX and the description of the locale was such that you could picture yourself walking down one of the streets or riding along a dusty road. I found myself making time to get back to this book at every chance. Just had to know how the various strings of the plot came together in the end!

    2 out of 2 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 September 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful read!

    This is such a wonderful read!
    Every word and every sentence needs to be read.
    This story really captured this time period well.
    I liked how the author blended a warm humorous
    scene with the stark images of life during this time.
    Each scene in the book is so descriptive you feel a part of it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Nitty and Gritty...

    This book isn't really my cup of tea, but I don't want that to mean that it isn't a good book, hence the three stars. I think that a lot of people will love the story, the language, the experience of a book like this. I just couldn't get into it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Wake of Forgiveness is a poignant must read.

    The Skala's are one imperfect family living in Texas at the turn of the century and this is their story. It's a story a full generation long of an, I hope unlikely farm family. Karel Skala is the youngest son, he's a forlorn man trying to better his present by not reliving his past, but in doing so he finds that the past always seems to rise it's sometimes ugly head, but he also hopes that if one can rise above his past then maybe he'll find "The Wake of Forgiveness".
    Mr. Machart has a real hit on his hands with this his debut novel The Wake of Forgiveness. He gives us a unique look at the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century USA, Texas from the perspective of one family and the town they call home, it's before the dust bowl and before the depression but he makes us see just how treacherous and precipitous life can be. He does this using dramatic prose like dialogue that enhances the reader's enjoyment of the novel by adding stimulus that will definitely affect our senses while it tells the story of this one imperfect family, he adds time jumps that also enlighten us about his characters. His characters are plentiful, colorful, complicated and some are difficult to imagine, while others will tear at your heartstrings. His characters the Skala's are an unbelievably believable family and Mr. Machart makes them so to his audience by giving us multifaceted looks at the differences and similarities in their personalities. His main protagonist Karel Skala is a character that you will want to get to know, and as we find out bits and pieces of his life so far it will become clear to us why he became the man he did.
    This is a love story, it's a coming of age story, it's a family drama and will appeal to so many different audiences at the same time. It's mainly a beautifully written matter of fact piece of literary fiction and who ever you are will be better for having read it. And I want to thank Mr. Machart for allowing it to be a part of the Barnes and Noble First Look program.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Forgive me, but.....

    I had the opportunity to read "The Wake of Forgiveness" by Bruce Machart, as a part of Barnes & Noble's First Look program. As much as I wanted to enjoy reading this book, I had a very hard time reading it. I did not form a connection with any of the characters. If I cannot form any connection to them, I have a difficult time with the book. Every time I tried to pick up TWoF to read, I found that I couldn't. Perhaps it just was not the time for me to read this book. I will try again, at some point.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 15, 2010

    Beautifully written but ultimately unsatisfying

    While this book was beautifully written, there was a lot of violence and cruelty in this book. After Vaclav Skala's beloved wife dies giving birth to their fourth son, Karel, Vaclav becomes cruel and unforgiving--to the extent of harnessing his sons to the plow rather than use his race horses for farm work. When a rich, Mexican man comes with three daughters he inexplicably wants to wed to three of Skala's four sons, trouble starts. Although there's clearly an attempt for the patterns of blame and guilt (which are as much a result of the hard land and bad luck as bad decisions) to be resolved in forgiveness by the book's end, I found the plot to be somewhat contrived--so it ultimately didn't come together for me. Beautifully written, but definitely a book I'd rather check out of the library than buy.

    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 20, 2010

    Not my cup of Tea . . . .

    The writing prose of the author was somewhat difficult to follow. I had to stop often to look up passages since most of the writing is <somewhat> reflective of an era gone by writing. The book jumps back and forth to previous times and locations thru-out.

    The characters were just plain 'nasty' and not positive at all. Sad read and not very optimistic in the least bit. The artwork is great & catchy. The characters seem a bit too opportunistic and extreme for my understanding.
    Relationships in this book are so stressed makes one wonder 'how did they manage without killing each other?'
    Sad read....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    More of a book for men

    "The Wake of Forgiveness" looks at the relationships between fathers and sons. Set in Texas in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the protagonist is Karel Skala, whose mother died giving birth to him and who is resented by his father for that reason. Karel has three brothers, and their father works them mercilessly, using them instead of horses to plow his farm.

    Horses are a huge part of this novel. Karel races one of his father's horses with more land as the prize. He's unbeaten untl he races a girl named Graciella. She and Karel share the bond of motherless children. She's one of three sisters who marry Karel's three brothers, but not before she and Karel spend a stormy night in a barn together.

    I really think this is more a book written by a man for men, though some of the writing is beautiful. It was interesting to learn that many Czech immigrants settled in Texas, which made me wonder about how the two cultures influenced each other.

    The book jumps back and forth between three time periods, which I wasn't crazy about, but that's just me. It also has a few explicit sex scenes, so if that's not your thing, be warned.

    Women have a rough time in this book, but they all seem to be smart and strong. One of my favorite quotes is from another character near the end of the story: "Ain't a woman ever been paid enough for all that gets taken from her."

    Though it isn't the best book I've read this year, I did learn about that time and place, and I really liked the ending. I think a different reader would love it.

    1 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 October 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    just not into it

    This was one I just couldn't get into. There's a backwards time jump early on that really threw me off. Usually I have no problem with books that do that, but I feel this one didn't have enough action/characters not appearing in both times to differentiate the time periods. The time jump took me out of the story and I had trouble getting back into it. Furthermore, I never connected with the characters (no sympathy from me) and wasn't invested in the plot at all.

    I read this as part of the First Look program.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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