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396 Western American Literature The character of Mattie is fully realized, for the author takes no easy outs in portraying this woman. Mattie is as flawed as most good people are, makes the usual human mistakes, and surprises us with her human complexity. The characterization of Mattie is the best thing about the novel, but the full reali­ zation of what life must have been like on the frontier of western Nebraska is another feature that makes this novel so good. Mattie is one of the best novels set in the West that I have read in years. This is Judy Alter’s best novel to date. JAMES WARD LEE University of North Texas A Charge of Angels. By L. D. Clark. (Lewiston: Confluence Press, 1987. 187 pages, $14.95.) In the Cross Timbers area of north Texas in the late 1930s, the natural order of things seems to be gone for the people of Milcourt, especially for one man, Amon Lamb. Clark’s story is a first-person narrative told by Lamb in his country dialect. He fills us in on the incongruous string of events that causes him to be run out of town. The author alludes to the supernatural as the source, although his work never loses touch with reality. We wonder how he is going to resolve the suggestive other-world explanations Lamb has for what has happened to him, and, unless Clark is going to write science fantasy, the plot needs a plausible resolution. He gives us one, remaining true to the superstitious nature of Lamb, yet real enough for us to believe. Amon Lamb wants to find out why he keeps thinking of the past. His search leads him to the ruins of a bloody massacre by Indians of the town’s early settlers. Poking around for arrowheads, he unearths a tomahawk that he eventually believes possesses supernatural powers. Milcourt, Lamb’s hometown, and the “old pissant town” that he runs to are contrasted by the author, symbolizing the turmoil in Lamb’s mind. In the no-name town Lamb tries to put order into his life by recounting what hap­ pened to him after he found the tomahawk. Unlike his townsfolk, Lamb is not a man who believes we should wait for divine inspiration to give us direction in life. His philosophy is to risk all to find salvation. Clark relies heavily on symbolism but it isn’t overdone. Meaning comes through Lamb’s narration, as in the time he goes into a well to save a friend’s child: “. . . down here they wouldn’t be no time like above ground. They’d be nothing but blacker and blacker eternity.” In Clark’s latest work we are reminded of the themes of optimism and democracy prevalent in western literature. Lamb and the people of Milcourt are fighting against change. How they overcome their problems together makes this novel worth reading. RITA BURLESON MELENDEZ El Paso Community College ...


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