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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Trackers

Narrator: Will Patton


ISBN: 9780062948083

Publisher: Ecco

Publication Date: 04/11/2023

Format: e-book

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Cold Mountain and Varina, a stunning new novel that paints a vivid portrait of life in the Great Depression

Hurtling past the downtrodden communities of Depression-era America, painter Val Welch travels westward to the rural town of Dawes, Wyoming. Through a stroke of luck, he’s landed a New Deal assignment to create a mural representing the region for their new Post Office.

A wealthy art lover named John Long and his wife Eve have agreed to host Val at their sprawling ranch. Rumors and intrigue surround the couple: Eve left behind an itinerant life riding the rails and singing in a western swing band. Long holds shady political aspirations, but was once a WWI sniper—and his right hand is a mysterious elder cowboy, a vestige of the violent old west. Val quickly finds himself entranced by their lives.

One day, Eve flees home with a valuable painting in tow, and Long recruits Val to hit the road with a mission of tracking her down. Journeying from ramshackle Hoovervilles to San Francisco nightclubs to the swamps of Florida, Val's search for Eve narrows, and he soon turns up secrets that could spark formidable changes for all of them.

In The Trackers, singular American writer Charles Frazier conjures up the lives of everyday people during an extraordinary period of history that bears uncanny resemblance to our own. With the keen perceptions of humanity and transcendent storytelling that have made him beloved for decades, Frazier has created a powerful and timeless new classic.

My Review

Master storyteller Charles Frazier, author of his famous Cold Mountain, returns with his fifth novel, a gripping historical adventurous story, THE TRACKERS. Set during the Great Depression era, America features a young artist on a New Deal assignment to paint a new post office mural in a small Wyoming town that turns into a mysterious road trip across the country.

Set in rural Dawes, Wyoming, and ventures through Florida, Washington, and the West to California.

THE TRACKERS is a powerful stunning new novel that paints a vivid portrait of life in the Great Depression while following the story of a painter recruited to chase down missing artwork and the woman who fled.

It is 1937, The Great Depression: featuring a 27-year-old Virginia artist, Valentine Welch (Val), sent by the federal government to paint an uplifting mural on a wall for the new post office.

With the assignment comes free room and board with John Long, a wealthy rancher, and his younger wife, Eve—a former cross-country band boho singer. Once he arrives, he learns the ranch is filled with drama and intrigue.

Main Characters:

~Val Welch, the visiting artist, is at loose ends after his fiancée elopes with another man hired to paint a post office mural.

~John Long, an aspiring senator and avid art collector, has agreed to host Val at his sprawling ranch.

~Eve Long, John's wife, a teenage hobo turned Western swing band singer.

~Faro, Long’s right-hand man, a ranch hand. An ageless cowboy rumored to have fought alongside Billy the Kid.

Val spends his days painting and nights drinking and talking with Long and Eve until she disappears with a valuable Renoir painting from her husband’s collection.

John wants Val to find Eve, and he becomes a tracker. He puts the PO project on hold for a road trip across the country to find Eve. John, once a WWI sniper, aspires to become a Senator, and rumor has it Eve had a first husband, Jake, and they may not be divorced.

For Val, there are complex personal entanglements from envy, admiration, and resentment of John, and the fact he is attracted to Eve. So Val hits the road pursuing a mysterious woman, a stolen painting, and an idea of his future.

Eve's character is quite enigmatic, especially for a woman in this era. Her personality is influenced by the Depression, after leaving home during high school from a poor family. From hitchhiking to hopping freight trains while seeking work. She is a SURVIVOR. But when she feels threatened or caged, she runs.

Val uncovers many SECRETS. Eve's character takes center stage along with Vals. Fargo is another fun character adding to the triangle. He is an older, cynical mysterious ranch hand/cowboy (think Yellowstone), who works on John's ranch—a perfect example of the old frontier West.

A CLASSIC! THE TRACKERS tells a story of everyday people during an extraordinary period of history that will resonate with our current time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story behind the story by Frazier and the inspiration behind the book, and how this story came to light you can find it here on his website. As with his previous books, it started with a photo.

A lyrical literary fiction, full of action, vivid descriptions, infused with history and well-developed characters —a coming-of-age story of Val as he explores the land from the South, east, West, and north.

There are struggles in Depression-era America and class/financial divides. From the crash, and the years after, from despair to hope in this dynamic story of American history.

How does it mirror our own?

LITERARY HUB INTERVIEW: "Charles Frazier on How the Past Converses With the Present. Jane Ciabattari Talks to the Author of The Trackers "

JC: ” While working on The Trackers, did you find ways in which that period in American history mirrors our own? Were you motivated and energized by this resemblance?

FRAZIER: "I didn’t start out looking for similarities between then and now, but the farther I went in my reading the more the similarities became impossible to ignore—issues like racial and economic inequality, fractured and fractious politics, the environmental disaster of the Dust Bowl, the threatening rise of fascism around the world, the deeply political Supreme Court. I’d say I was more energized than motivated by the similarities."

As a NC native near Asheville, where the author is from, a big fan of his writing! Frazier fans will enjoy this one! Highly recommend.

Thanks to #Ecco via #NetGalley for a gifted ARC in exchange for an honest review. #CoverCrush

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 5 Stars

Pub Date: April 11, 2023


“Frazier is in top form for his fifth novel, which traverses America in its portrait of contrasting Depression-era lives. [T]he locales feel period-authentic, and the writing hums with spectacular word-images. […] The Old West still lingers in this propulsive tale of individualistic characters striving to beat the odds.” —Booklist (Starred Review)

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Charles Frazier Hits the Road


Feb 24, 2023

A sharp economic downturn has rocked the U.S., upending the plans of young and old alike. Homeless encampments dot the landscape from Seattle to New York City. Climate disasters strike with alarming frequency, wiping out what little people have left. The president’s agenda is stymied by Congress and a Supreme Court that seems increasingly out of touch. Faith in the country’s institutions is at an all-time low. READ MORE

About the Author

Charles Frazier grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina. He has been writing critically-acclaimed, best-selling literary fiction for more than 25 years, and his work has been translated into over two dozen languages.

Cold Mountain (1997), his highly acclaimed first novel, was an international bestseller, won the National Book Award, the ABBY Award, the Heartland Award, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, and was an American Library Association Notable Book. In 2003, Cold Mountain was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film by screenwriter and director Anthony Minghella. Later, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon and librettist Gene Scheer adapted Cold Mountain into an opera, which premiered at Santa Fe Opera in 2015.

Thirteen Moons (2006), was a New York Times bestseller, won the 2007 SIBA Book Award and the 2007 Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, and was named a best book of the year by the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Nightwoods (2011), also a New York Times bestseller, is a critically acclaimed literary thriller set in a fictional Western North Carolina town in the early 1960s.

Varina (2018), a critically acclaimed instant New York Times bestseller, is a fictional reimagining of the life of Varina Howell Davis before, during, and after the American Civil War.

Charles’s forthcoming fifth novel, The Trackers (April 2023), is set in Depression-era Wyoming, Washington, Florida, and California and conjures up the lives of everyday people during an extraordinary period of history that bears uncanny resemblance to our own. Learn more about The Trackers here.







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