Journey to Riverbend: A Novel by Henry McLaughlin
Journey to Riverbend is one of those books that is a stand alone, yet with potential for much more. This first time author writes such magnetic characters with unique living and breathing voices that I have had the desire to move to Riverbend to get to know its people better. Even the unsavory residents add to the town’s charm and vitality. The action is so driving that I couldn’t put the book down once I started reading.
The opening scene is the hanging of a gangly young man whom the main character, Michael Archer, is convinced is innocent. Young Ben’s final request was to ask Michael to visit his estranged father, Sam Carstairs, to deliver some letters, an item Ben cherished of his mother’s, and attempt a postmortem reconciliation of some sort.
Michael Archer brought along a letter of recommendation from his friend Sheriff Gideon Parsons to take to Riverbend’s Sheriff to elicit his assistance in his efforts. Sheriff Caleb Davis was as good as Parsons in reading character, and this lean and tough young man didn’t appear to be the typical kind for ministerial duties. It made him curious to know Michael’s life story. He knew this task would be difficult because although Sam Carstairs was the town’s benefactor, he was ruthless and hard as nails.
In the meantime, Sam Carstairs had traveled to San Francisco for business, an annual event. On the return trip, he received two disturbing threatening notes. Then in the last leg of his journey he was abducted. As soon as news of the kidnapping reached Riverbend, Sheriff Davis organized a search posse and included Michael Archer.
This is one of the best books I have read set in the Old Wild West. The author’s descriptive language is powerful. The setting as well as the characters came alive as we follow Michael along his personal, spiritual, and physical journey. The reader realizes that the title of the book is multi-dimensional as the story picks up on Sam Carstairs own harrowing experiences and the baffling behavior of his abductors.
The book is full of the gritty elements of life in the Old Wild West. Evil is honestly portrayed for what it is and well written in contrast to the good seen in the lives of several of the members of the posse and village. Michael is a strong Christian with a mission in mind, but even he has his demons to deal with. I would rate this book at PG13 because of the multiple incidences where evil triumphs momentarily. Yet while this is true, the Gospel message is strong without being preachy. The author manages to balance the two contrasting characteristics in such a manner that neither is overwhelming. If the author were to write 100 more of this type of book, I would read and recommend all.
However, I can’t emphasize enough to parents of teens and pre-teens to exercise caution. There is nothing in the book to compromise the Judeo-Christian values, yet some incidences may be upsetting to those sensitive to brutality. This is a book written for adults, not for children.
There are several supporting characters in this book just begging for a story of their own, or at least for a bit more resolution. This includes the love interest of the main character, Rachel Stone. I sincerely hope this means the author intends to write more.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”