Wounded, by Percival Everett
A story of ‘fight or flight,’ and how one man chose to deal with it.
Training horses is dangerous–a head-to-head confrontation with a 1,000 pounds of muscle and little sense takes courage, but more importantly patience and smarts. It is these same qualities that allow John and his uncle Gus to live in the beautiful high desert of Wyoming. A black horse trainer is a curiosity, at the very least, but a familiar curiosity in these parts. It is the brutal murder of a young gay man, however, that pushes this small community to the teetering edge of fear and tolerance.
As the first blizzard of the season gains momentum, John is forced to reckon not only with the daily burden of unruly horses, a three-legged coyote pup, an escape-artist mule, and too many people, but also a father-son war over homosexuality, random hate-crimes, and—perhaps most frightening of all–a chance for love.
Review by Gerry Burnie
What is our responsibility toward those around us? That is the thought provoking question asked by Wounded, by Percival Everett [Graywolf Press; 2 edition, September 13, 2011].
Set in the ‘high desert’ region of Wyoming, and narrated by the principal character, John Hunt, this is a book of many colours: Western genre, racial and sexual intolerance, inner reflection, and social injustice.
Hunt is a Black, Berkley graduate, with an appreciation for modern art, and subsequent to the accidental death of his wife, six years previous, he has taken up the training of horses with his acerbic Uncle Gus. As such, the colour of his skin is of little consequence until other issues arise alongside of it.
A young man he has hired becomes accused of a Mathew-Sheppard-like murder of a gay man, and at first Hunt withdraws in fear of a prejudicial backlash. Nevertheless, when the accused man eventually hangs himself inside the jail cell, Hunt has reason to question his conscience.
Matters become more complex when the gay son of an old friend arrives on the scene with his lover – a gay activist intent on protesting the senseless murder.
Caught somewhat in the middle, Hunt can no longer step aside, and is therefore forced to confront some difficult questions regarding himself and the rising question his sexuality.
Returning to the opening question, this is a story of ‘fight or flight,’ and how one man chose to deal with it. The racial element was a refreshing perspective, but I am gratified that Everett did not dwell on it as the main theme. Like the angst in homosexuality, it is an aspect that has been work to the limit.
Altogether, an interesting read with strong characters and some unique plot elements. Four bees.
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