At the end of Huckleberry Finn, on the eve of the Civil War, Huck and Tom Sawyer decide to escape “sivilization” and “light out for the Territory.” In Robert Coover’s vision of their Western adventures, Tom decides he’d rather own civilization than escape it, leaving Huck “dreadful lonely” in a country of bandits, war parties, and gold. In the course of his ventures, Huck reunites with old friends, facing hard truths and even harder choices.
Robert Coover is the author of Huck Out West, among many other works of fiction. He is a pioneer in the field of electronic writing, and founded the International Writers Project, a freedom-to-write program, at Brown University. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
Jim Harrison is a test pilot in the United States Air Force, one of the exalted few. He spends his days cheating death in the skies above the Mojave Desert and his nights at his friend Pancho’s bar, often with his wife, Grace. She and Harrison are secretly desperate for a child, and when, unexpectedly, Grace learns that she is pregnant, the two are overjoyed. America becomes swept up in the fervor of the Space Race, while Harrison turns his attention home to welcome his daughter, Florence, into the world. But as he and Grace confront thrills and challenges of parenthood, they are met with sudden tragedy.
The aftermath will haunt the Harrisons and strain their marriage, as Jim struggles to make life-and-death decisions under circumstances that are altogether new. Set against the backdrop of one of the most emotionally charged periods in American history, The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock is the mesmerizing story of a couple’s crisis of faith—in themselves, and in each another—and the limits they test to rediscover it.
Robert Coover has been playing by his own rules for more than half a century, earning the 1987 Rea Award for the Short Story as “a writer who has managed, willfully and even perversely, to remain his own man while offering his generous vision and versions of America.” Here, in this selection of his best stories, you will find an invisible man tragically obsessed by an invisible woman; a cartoon man in a cartoon car who runs over a real man who is arrested by a real policeman with cartoon eyes; a stick man who reinvents the universe. While invading the dreams and nightmares of others, Coover cuts to the core of how realism works.
National Book Award Finalist—Fiction
In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.
In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.
In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself.