Coal Black Horse
May 10, 2011
Author: Robert Olmstead
Publication Date: 2007
**An Algonquin Book Club Pick.**
Another great book by Robert Olstead! (The Dew reviewed Far Bright Star a month ago.) Very much in the vein of Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry. Strong people, hard times, good horses.
It's the Civil War and 14 year old Robey is on the homestead with his mother while his father is off at war. Robey is still very much a sheltered boy who happens to be in an "almost man's" body. His mother, who has the Sight, comes to him one day, tells him to pack his bag and go fetch his father home, giving him some general directions as to where she senses he is. She provides him a coat that's navy on one side and gray on the other.
So begins Robey's journey through the wasteland that is the war. His first wonderful acquisition is a beautiful Hanoverian horse with a bad attitude whose owner has died and no one has claimed the animal. The blacksmith who's been holding the animal sends him off with the horse hoping it is smart enough to help Robey stay out of trouble as the boy doesn't have the street smarts that the horse might.
Robey's travels bring him into many adult situations that he's never had to deal with before and tests his survival skills. At the same time they also throw him headfirst into adulthood. In a few short months Robey goes from a young boy to a man who's seen far too much.
A lot of violence in this book, but wrapped around the violence are moments of compassion from complete strangers that reminds you the human mind is very flexible and unfathomable creature.