The Legend of Swell Branch, by JR Collins - A Wilderness Adventure
This book transports its reader to the southern Appalachian mountains after the Civil War. A young man named Boo, short for Buach Whelan, is forced to grow up quickly as his family faces crushing, devastating losses. The entire story is told by Boo, and narrated in his Mountain English, which enhanced the storytelling.
Despite his Irish heritage, the influence of a large, hidden village of Cherokee people defines this young man. A generation after the Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears, there remains a growing number of Cherokee who managed to evade the forced march westward.
Boo refers to the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression and states that the institution of slavery was already on its way out, essentially over. The protagonist does allow that there are decent folks from the north, but mostly, folks from the north are the bad guys in this book. He lost two older brothers to the Civil War. When a northern war veteran kills Boo’s father and occupies his family farm, reclaiming it becomes Boo’s mission. To complicate matters, the unscrupulous opportunist from the north is not alone. Boo, his sister Mary, and his half-Cherokee friend Henri must contend with a large, multi-family group of carpetbaggers. Facing a couple of war-hardened veterans is one thing, a large family, including women and children, is a different challenge altogether. Reclaiming his property isn’t Boo’s only problem. The north/south trail beckons hordes of outlaws southward.
I loved the way Christianity and Native American spiritualism combine in this book. Boo and his mentor, Henri, are very connected to a higher power, and their ability to listen beyond hearing helps them throughout.
The characters pulled me into the story, and the plot compelled me forward. The ever-dangerous situations provided suspense. In addition to the violence, we find a story of young love here.
What would have made this book even better? Sometimes while reading this book, I became distracted by an awareness of unnecessary repetition, so I would have wished for less of that. Also, many times when a character was speaking, they would dump their entire portion of dialog in one paragraph, and then the other character would do their part in the next paragraph. I wondered why the dialog wasn’t delivered as an interchange. Perhaps it was a stylistic choice.
I may have missed it, but I’m not sure about the legend referred to in the title. Perhaps in forthcoming installments of The Longhunter Series, the main character’s vigilantism becomes the legend referenced.
Looking at the image after reading the book, I think it powerfully portrays the experience of reading the book. I’m always up for “A Wilderness Adventure.” I think it’s a great cover.
I enjoyed reading this book, and I recommend it.