I surrender. To explain in a few paragraphs a story that ranges from the frozen gold fields of the Yukon to the yellow fever swelter of Cuban hillsides, from the racial turmoil of post-Reconstruction North Carolina to the most humble, remote village in the Philippines, is a fool's errand. So let me dispense with any attempt at summary and cut straight to the chase - if an unrelenting commitment to showing action as it unfolds in vivid (and even painful) detail excites you, read John Sayles's novel. He had me hooked by page ten, following the hopeless greenhorn Hod Brackenridge up a death-defying slope in the Alaskan wilderness. What kept me interested through the nearly 1,000 pages that followed was Sayles's uncanny ability to find complexity in all of his characters, revealing the conflicted motives that drive them to pursue their desires.
If there is one unifying theme...
Beyond the Book
In John Sayles's A Moment in the Sun
, Hod Brackenridge's colorful past is marked most deeply by his participation in a working class uprising. A group of men, inspired by Populist rhetoric, hijack a train car in an attempt to bring their economic grievances to the nation's capital.
Turn-of-the-century America was fraught with class conflicts of this sort, some of which exploded in violent strikes and protests. In 1894, Jacob Coxey - a wealthy Ohio businessman - headed an "Industrial Army" of diverse men and women, who were dissatisfied with "the federal government's inaction in the face of economic crisis."
This review was originally published in September 2011, and has been updated for the
February 2012 paperback release.
Click here to go to this issue