In the Distance

Coffee House. Oct. 2017. 272p. ISBN 9781566894883. pap. $16.95. F
OrangeReviewStarAfter immigrating to America from Sweden in the 1840s, young Håkan Söderström is separated from his brother in New York and inadvertently boards a ship bound for California, arriving during the Gold Rush. He befriends a family of Irish immigrants and join them in the goldfields until he is captured by vigilantes, taken to a nearby town, and made a virtual prisoner. Håkan's escape begins many years of adventures across the West. He first falls in with a naturalist who teaches him about science, then with a group of settlers, killing religious zealots who attack their wagon train, becoming a legend—and a wanted man—across the West. While set in the American West, this is no conventional Western, as it turns the genre's stereotypes upside down, taking place on a frontier as much mythic as real with a main character traveling east. In this world, American individualism becomes the isolation that is its shadow and the dream of freedom devolves into anarchic violence. And while Håkan longs for community, he finds himself a stranger everywhere.
VERDICT Resonant historical fiction with a contemporary feel.
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