Review ~ Sundance

This book was provided to me by Penguin Random House via First to Read in exchange for an honest review.

Sundance by David Fuller

Cover via Goodreads

Legend has it that bank robber Harry Longbaugh and his partner Robert Parker were killed in a shootout in Bolivia. That was the supposed end of the Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy.

Sundance tells a different story. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Longbaugh is very much alive, though serving in a Wyoming prison under an alias.

When he is released in 1913, Longbaugh reenters a changed world. Horses are being replaced by automobiles. Gas lamps are giving way to electric lights. Workers fight for safety, and women for the vote. What hasn’t changed are Longbaugh’s ingenuity, his deadly aim, and his love for his wife, Etta Place.

It’s been two years since Etta stopped visiting him, and, determined to find her, Longbaugh follows her trail to New York City. Confounded by the city’s immensity, energy, chaos, and crowds, he learns that his wife was very different from the woman he thought he knew. Longbaugh finds himself in a tense game of cat and mouse, racing against time before the legend of the Sundance Kid catches up to destroy him.

By turns suspenseful, rollicking, and poignant, Sundance is the story of a man dogged by his own past, seeking his true place in this new world. (via Goodreads)

I am a sucker for fish-out-of-water stories and gray heroes.

With the use of a plausible stretch of history–identity in the “old West” is as mailable as inconsistency of records kept–David Fuller doesn’t need a time machine to produce a man out of time. When Harry Longbaugh is released from prison, he finds a world that could be called science fiction, if Longbaugh knew enough to use the term. New York is a city of lights, skyscrapers and automobiles. Trains run on rails above the ground and below it. Even guns have changed. Yet, into this world of the future, Longbaugh’s reputation is never far behind him. While officially it was Harry Alanzo that did time in Wyoming, figures from Longbaugh’s past are waiting for him. Including his wife Etta.

I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the dusty West with the urban east. Fuller does a good job of distilling down the crazy amount of change that occurred in the early 20th century. I was also impressed with where this novel went, plot-wise. There’s a lot going on in New York in the early 1910s and Longbaugh finds himself wrapped up in the politics of unionization and organized crime, issues I wasn’t expecting from a book that starts in a train-stop town in Big Sky country. An unfortunate consequence of an ambitious plot is that it becomes hard to manage. The ending of Sundance relies on some serendipity of events that is too good to be true and a little rushed.

The most surprising aspect of Sundance is that it’s quite romantic and quite middle-aged. Harry Longbaugh in 1913 is in his mid-40s. He’s taking stock of his life and realizing that what’s been important, in good ways and bad, have been the people in his life. He mourns the presumed death of his friend Robert Parker, aka Butch Cassidy, and shows great fidelity to his wife Etta. Longbaugh is a sympathetic character though he still feels a great excitement toward lawlessness, despite where it’s taken him.

Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Publication date: May 29th 2014
Genre: Historical fiction
Why did I choose to read this book? Fish out of water, touch of Western/touch of Romance

Hosted by Historical Tapestry

3 thoughts on “Review ~ Sundance

  1. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    I’ve never heard of this book but I’m so glad I stumbled on your review! I’ve watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid so many times I’ve lost count, read nonfiction books and watched all the Discovery channel documentaries on them. Needless to say I’m fascinated by this subject and this particular take on it looks fascinating! Great review!

    1. Katherine Nabity Post author

      Ridiculously, I’ve never seen the movie and I actually know surprisingly little about Butch and Sundance, so I won’t vouch for the accuracy of this book. The author does admit to stretching a few things to make the narrative work. For what it’s worth, history-wise, I didn’t doubt the time period details.

  2. Pingback: The Best I Read in 2014 | The Writerly Reader

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