The first in a series of historical adventures by debut novelist William H. Brown, West From Here follows a boy’s efforts to restore a lost family heirloom and, perhaps more importantly, his father’s battered sense of self-worth. The boy, Elias James, hatches a plan with his cousins to recover the heirloom from the Creek Indians and ride home as a hero. But like all great adventure stories, things don’t quite work out as planned.
Set in 1800s Georgia, the opening chapters commence a frontier-survival saga from a child’s perspective, in a manner that owes much to Laura Ingalls-Wilder’s beloved Little House series, or The Oregon Trail. Elias’ early life and family ties are evoked with warmth and gentle prose yet show endurance to bind across vast distances.
West From Here also borrows from the long tradition in children’s fiction of absent parents: in this case figurative, his mother Tilda bound to home and hearth by the gender conventions of her time, his father emotionally distant. Elias’ father Henry, it emerges, carries a heavy burden of blame, tasked by the family with guarding the precious medallion, only to have it stolen during a raiding party of native people.
While the theft makes Henry bitter, his broken pride, scores of sneering uncles and the appearance of a smoothly manipulative trader make Elias determined to retrieve the medallion alone. Of course, it isn’t a stretch to assume that the quest won’t be without hardship, or that the trader in question might not be all he seems.
Through Elias and a haunting encounter in his past, West From Here promises a more enlightened view of the region’s indigenous people than literature of the time, a little social history and alongside a rattling yarn.