Excerpt from A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

A Moment in the Sun

By John Sayles

A Moment in the Sun
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: May 2011,
    968 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2012,
    968 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


When he gets his breath back Hod sits up to see where he's landed. There are eagles, not so noble-looking as the ones that spread their wings on the coins and bills of the nation, eagles skulking on the riverbank, eagles thick in the trees back from the mudflats. He has never seen a live one before.

"They'll get into your sowbelly, you leave it out in the open," says the leathery one-eyed Indian who squats by his load.

"I don't plan to."

"Better get a move on, then. That tide don't stay where it is."

The man introduces himself as Joe Raven and is something called a Tlingit and there is no bargaining with him.

"Twelve cents a pound. Healy and Wilson charge you twice that. Be two hundred fifty to pack this whole mess to the base of the Pass. We leave at first light."

It is already late in the season, no time to waste lugging supplies piecemeal from camp to camp when the lakes are near freezing and the goldfields will soon be picked over. All around them Indians and the scruffy-bearded local white men are auctioning their services off to the highest bidder. One stampeder runs frantically from group to group, shouting numbers, looking like he'll pop if he's not the first to get his stake off the beach.

"That's about all the money I got," says Hod.

The Tlingit winks his good eye and begins to pile Hod's goods onto a runnerless sledge. "Hauling this much grub, you won't starve right away." He tosses a stone at an eagle sidling close and it flaps off a few yards, croaking with annoyance, before settling onto the flats again.

"Eat on a dead dog, eat the eyes out of spawn fish, pick through horseshit if it's fresh. Lazy bastards." Joe Raven winks his single eye again. "Just like us Tlingits."

The Indian wakes him well before first light.

"Best get on the trail," he says, "before it jams up with people."

Hod rises stiffly, the night spent sleeping in fits out with his goods, laughter and cursing and a few gunshots drifting over from the jumble of raw wood shanties and smoke-grimed tents that have spread, scabies-like, a few hundred yards in from the riverbank.

"Any chance for breakfast in town?"

"The less you have to do with that mess," says Joe Raven, "the better off you be."

As they head out there are eagles still, filling the trees, sleeping.

The eight miles from Dyea to Canyon City is relatively flat but rough enough, Hod's outfit loaded on the backs of Joe's brothers and wives and cousins and grinning little nephews, a sly-eyed bunch who break out a greasy deck of cards whenever they pause to rest or to let Hod catch up. Fortunes, or at least the day's wages, pass back and forth with much ribbing in a language he can't catch the rhythm of. Hod struggles along with his own unbalanced load, clambering over felled trees and jagged boulders bigger than any he's ever seen, saving ten dollars and raising a crop of angry blisters on his feet as the trail winds through a narrow canyon, skirting the river then wandering away from it.

"Boots 'pear a tad big for you," says Joe Raven.

The way he has to cock his head to focus the one eye on you, Hod can't tell if the Indian is mocking him or not.

"Might be." He is trying not to limp, trying desperately to keep up.

"Don't worry. By tomorrow your feet'll swoll up to fill em."

Canyon City is only another junkheap of tents and baggage near a waterfall. Hod forks over two fresh-minted silver dollars for hot biscuits and a fried egg served on a plate not completely scraped clean of the last man's lunch while the Indians sit on their loads outside and chew on dried moose, taking up the cards again.

"Gamblingest sonsabitches I ever seen," says the grizzled packer sitting by him on the bench in the grub tent. "Worse than Chinamen."

"I'm paying twelve cents a pound," says Hod. The coffee is bitter but hot off the stovetop. "That fair?"

Excerpted from A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles. Copyright © 2011 by John Sayles. Excerpted by permission of McSweeney’s Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Coxey's Army

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  254Cartwheel:
    Jennifer duBois
  2.  170The Weight of Blood:
    Laura McHugh

All Discussions

Who Said...

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd rather have been talking

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.