Tuesday, January 09, 2007

REVIEW: Ronald Bowman - The Joural of Jacob Bowman (Wheatmark)

After enduring a childhood nobody would trade a handful of hot coals for, Jacob Bowman sets out to explore the Rocky Mountains. Through numerous seasons and adventures, he confronts both the virtuous and depraved. Rescuing a young Ute girl forces Jacob into a confrontation with the Yampa tribe, and the forging of a legendary bond with these beautiful people. He barters for the freedom of a black man named John, then travels with him as a friend.

Within the excitement of the yearly rendezvous, Jacob becomes smitten with Sarah, one of the ladies delivered for mending and cooking a decent meal. Jacob wishes to return to St. Louis to marry Sarah and hopes John will travel with him. Now, all must venture into the unknown, testing friendships along their final destinations. [from the book's jacket]
This is a great read for all those who love early American History with a first person quality.

At first I was doubtful of the book's authenticity, but internal evidence lends credibility where cynicism had once been. For example: on page 160 the journalist describes his and his friend's hunger for grease. This kind of fact would not normally be recorded in a fake.

Again on page 192: Bowman records an encounter he has with his sweetheart Sarah. The two embrace and the young woman complains about "the handle of my long knife hurting her side." The result is laughter by both. This kind of detail would not come from the pen of a forger.

The portion of the journal the reader is looking for actually begins on page 67 when Bowman leaves St. Louis.

The journal is not professionally written or edited, which adds to a sense of genuineness; a two hundred year old manuscript, written on the run (so to speak), on poor paper, with primitive writing instruments, by firelight no less, can't be an easy translation task for a contemporary descendant.

This reviewer was asked to reveal the book's theme; there is none. How can there be? If one must be chosen, the theme of this early 1800s wide, wild American west tome must be survival, integrity, or faithfulness?

The author is Ronald Bowman, "the great, great, great, great, nephew of Jacob Bowman." The author found the original and forgotten journal nestled in "a family heirloom, in 1979."

I read The Journal of Jacob Bowman as I would any new history ... with hunger for more. On a scale of 1 to 5 I would rate the book at 8.5. My reading passion has always been historical fiction and non-fiction, it still is. I would rate the Journal as one of my more enjoyable adventures in the past couple of decades.

There will be no disappointment for the reader who knows what he likes in historical non-ficiton.

This book was provided free by the author and publisher through the agency of Active Christian Media. I received no compensation for this review.

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