Richard Marius: Bound for the Promised Land
Adam Cloud’s father, Joel, has left their home in East Tennessee to look for gold. He just disappears one night, leaving Adam and Adam’s mother, Naomi. They get one letter (written by someone else as Joel cannot write). Adam, meanwhile, has to keep the farm going. Naomi dies some time afterwards, leaving Adam on his own. He sells the farm and, on the night he is to leave, Harry Creekmore walked out of the woods and into Adam’s life. Creekmore pretends to be a relative but is actually a con-man on the run from the law. He and Harry set off out West. They meet up with the Jennings, who are going to California to set up a commune but who are oblivious to the dangers ahead of them and Clifford and Ishtar Baynes, pompous chisellers. Most of the book recounts the journey out West and the hardships that are involved. Hunger, Indians attacks, disease, weather, love and death, as well as the trickery of humans, are some of the travails that meet them. Adam gets cholera but survives. And, eventually, most of them get to California, where Adam finds his father and makes a success. What makes this book so enjoyable is Marius’ ability to tell a good story, even if the plot is somewhat predictable, as well as his ability to take us back to the mid-nineteenth century and the difficulties of life during those times.
First published 1976 by Alfred A. Knopf