The summer was off to such a good start for Buck Crenshaw. Unfortunately, all of that falls apart with the arrival of Milford Streeter to the West Point Military Academy.
What’s it About?
When West Point Military Academy opens its doors to black candidate Milford Streeter in 1884, Cadet Buck Crenshaw’s moral ambivalence is tested. Will Buck keep his place in the yearling pecking order or throw it away on a stand for Streeter? After Cadet Streeter sacrifices Buck’s reputation to safeguard his own, Buck escapes to his sister Thankful at Fort Grant, Arizona and meets an old rival, William Weldon. Buck must make a decision about the sort of man he wants to become while witnessing the downward spiral of his favorite sister’s romance with a dashing army lieutenant. Weary of Running is about the dangers of moral ambivalence and the redeeming power of love and friendship in an imperfect world of mixed emotions and foolish decisions.
This book held so much promise in the beginning, but unfortunately things quickly got out of control to the point where it was no longer my cup of tea. I was excited to read about what I thought would be an ensuing friendship between Buck and West Point’s first ever black candidate, perhaps standing up against prejudice in a military establishment so soon after the end of the Civil War. Unfortunately, while Buck is initially open to the idea of a black cadet at West Point, it doesn’t take long before the influence of his brother, fellow cadets, and Streeter’s own actions to turn Buck into, well, a racist. And this sort of brings me to my main issue with this novel; I really could not find any one main character that I liked. Every single character presented in this novel is extremely flawed, and that makes it almost impossible to root for any of them to succeed.
The Disappearance of Buck
According to Goodreads, this novel is referred to as “A Buck Crenshaw Novel”. Therefore, I assumed that the majority of the novel would be about…Buck Crenshaw. Shockingly enough though, after about 10% of the novel he completely disappears from the story, and doesn’t return until the book is almost finished. Umm, what? I thought this was mainly going to be all about him and Streeter. And while Buck comes back into the tale much later on, we never hear about Streeter again, or even really get a resolution to that part of the story. Definitely a let down.
The Arrival of Thankful and William
So I would say Buck disappears for a good 60-65% of the book. Not gonna lie though, I wasn’t really sad to see him go. We see how others mistakenly assume he’s being soft on Streeter, and everything just spirals down from there to the point where Buck himself comes to despise Streeter. Buck and his brother, Fred, even go so far as to beat up Streeter and leave him for dead. Yikes! The novel then switches gears to follow Thankful out West, as she’s pursuing a childhood crush, William, who recently moved out there.
Alright, maybe this is where some romance will come into the story? Unfortunately…not so much. William is a raging alcoholic, which was spurred on by an accident from his childhood that left him with memory problems, headaches, and a crooked leg. But that doesn’t stop people from showing him zero sympathy, and constantly making fun of him for being a cripple. Thankful also turns away from him in the pursuit of another army officer who is good looking and showers her with compliments and trinkets. Man, this is just getting depressing!
Buck and William
Although these two characters barely spend any time together in the pages of this novel, their situations are quite similar. Basically, we see how they are ostracized from their comrades, supposed friends, and even their family due to a long string of misunderstandings, and a ridiculous amount of over-reacting from others. They become social pariahs, and while you’d think this would garner some sympathy from us as the reader, it’s also pretty hard to do.
I’ll admit, there were times that I felt somewhat bad for both Buck and William as their lives totally spiraled out of control into dark depression. This was probably more true in my opinion of William rather than Buck though, who at least had some legitimate medical reasons behind his behavior oftentimes getting out of control. The problem though is that as soon as I’d kind of feel bad for them, it wasn’t long before they’d proceed to say something racist, sexist, or just downright rude. Heck, at one point William even hits a woman! While these may have been common actions and opinions in the 1880s, it’s just not something I want my main characters to indulge in.
If I had to pinpoint the main characters of this novel, it would be Buck, William and Thankful. The majority of the supplemental characters are the familial relations of all of these characters, and my God are they a handful. It was almost comical, yet also annoying, how quickly and constantly they would rush to the most outlandish of conclusions, and over-react to every possible scenario without hearing out what would actually be a very simple explanation. It’s like nobody wanted to listen to reason. At one point Buck’s family even wants to put him in an asylum because he keeps getting into trouble. Buck and Thankful’s brother, Fred, is particularly deceitful by always blaming his own crimes on others, and the whole lot is pretty shockingly rude.
Whether it be children berating their parents, or parents being openly hurtful to their children, we are dealing with some characters that I had a really tough time liking. There were definitely some complicated family dynamics at play. To give you just a glimpse of some of the hurtful things these characters would say, one mother yells at her daughter, “I tell you all the time that there’s a great deal of difference between plump and downright fat and you have long since crossed that line.” When speaking of Indians a character states, “The savages should be sent from this earth-every last one of them.” Eventually I realized that practically every female in this novel reminded me of the mother in Pride and Prejudice. We’re talking Colin Firth movie version here; very over-the-top emotional, eccentric, etc.
*A copy of this book was presented for an honest review*
Series: The Tenafly Road Series, book…? This is listed as book 1 and book 2 in a few different places.
Should you read it? I hate to say it, but I had a tough time finishing this one. It was just one unfortunate event after another, with no real light at the end of the tunnel. Look, I get it. We are dealing with a novel set in the 1880s. It was a different time. But the historical novels that I like are the ones that rise above social prejudice, and highlight characters that go against the social norm to come out on top. Is that perhaps an unrealistic and fairy-tale like hope? Sure! But when I’m reading something in my spare time I’d like at least one happy thing to happen to a character I somewhat like, and unfortunately I found that lacking in this read.
Smut Level: There’s one quick jaunt behind a pile of wood, and another scene or two involving a…lady of the night.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 327 Pages.