Crossing Purgatory: A Novel of the American West (Paperback)
In the wake of family tragedy, Indiana farmer Thompson Grey takes to the Santa Fe Trail in a spare and powerful story of the meaning of family, human frailties, and ultimately, redemption.
Winner of the 2014 WWA Spur Award for Best Western Traditional Novel & the Chaucer Award in the Western Category
In spring of 1858, Thompson Grey, a young farmer, travels to his father’s estate seeking funds to expand his holdings. He covets the land. Far overstaying his visit, he returns home to find that his absence has contributed to a devastating family tragedy. Haunted by remorse, Thompson abandons his farm and begins a westward exile in the attempt to outpace his grief. During his wanderings, he encounters emigrants along the Santa Fe Trail who force him to assert his values, re-awaken his connection with humanity, and reevaluate his ties to the land. Unwittingly, he finds himself at journey’s end in the one place where his strongest temptations are able to overtake him and once again put him to the test.
Set against the backdrop of the Great Plains during the years just preceding the Civil War, Crossing Purgatory deals with questions of unprincipled ambition, guilt, and the price one man is willing to pay for atonement.
About the Author
Gary Schanbacher was born in the Midwest, raised in Southeast Virginia, and lives just outside Denver, Colorado. His short story collection, Migration Patterns, received a PEN/Hemingway Honorable Mention for distinguished first works of fiction and won the Colorado Book Award, the High Plains First Book Award and the Eric Hoffer General Fiction Award. He has been a Hemingway Fellow at Ucross Foundation, serves on the board of directors of Lighthouse Writers Workshop, a non-profit writing center, and is a founding partner of The Writers Block, a writing co-community.
Schanbacher is a gifted worker whose prose is always elegant, whether describing the land, a winter storm, or the inner life of his characters. This is an intense and emotionally stirring saga.
A striking tale...a visceral and triumphant saga of the Old West.
Crossing Purgatory is a beautiful, lyrical experience, memorable for its timeless evocation of human struggle at the fringes of civilization. There is something mythic in the language, capturing the vast emptiness and ever-looming danger of the American West 150 years ago. Schanbacher effortlessly channels history while exploring conflicts of the heart that ring just as true today.
— William Haywood Henderson, author of Augusta Locke