By: Richard Bowers
Publication Date: 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: March 31, 2010
It was a late summer day, and Uley Bauer had returned to his grandfather’s farm near Sedalia, MO. The farm, long abandoned, was slowly falling apart. After surveying the grounds and taking a nap in the dilapidated house, Uley set off for town to find his brother Joel.
It took Uley a while to locate his brother; there was a problem with a bucking horse, a girl and a few other things that got in the way. He finally found Joel at a party and told his brother that he had managed to save $300. Uley wanted to use the money as a down payment to buy their grandfather’s farm. But Joel was too busy having fun at the dance and not paying much attention to his younger brother. “Wait till later little brother…Right after the dance…”
The next day, before Uley is able to talk with Joel, he stops by his parents’ house. Uley’s father, Ewell, is an unsympathetic character who doesn’t have a kind word for his son. But he does ask his son for a loan and takes the $300 Uley saved to buy the farm. With no money, no family interest in buying back the farm, and a sheriff who wants to talk to him about the bucking horse, Uley decides to join his childhood friend Russell on his journey to California.
Russell and Uley have great expectations for their trip to California. They hope to have grand adventures exploring the country on their long journey. While the trip is fun initially, enjoying biscuits and coffee around the campfire, and taking in the natural beauty of their surroundings, things quickly turn sour for the pair. It was taking them much longer than expected to reach their destination. The gunpowder was gone, food supplies were low, and the terrain was now predictable and boring. Will they continue on to California?
The traveling pair eventually finds work at a mine. It’s very hard labor and there are some rather unscrupulous people waiting to take advantage of Uley and Russell. Their hopes of making some decent money clash with the harsh reality of life in the mines. Discouraged, Russell decides to leave, “…my time’s worth more to me than the likes of these fellas and I’m not going to lose anymore.” Uley watched as Russell grew “…smaller on the path, until he vanished over the ridge.” Once again, Uley was alone.
Uley wandered aimlessly until fortune smiled on him and he met an elderly man named Dutchy. Dutchy was a kind man who needed an able-bodied person to help him finish building his home. The old man had a way with horses and people and soon, Uley looked to him as a father. Along with a young Indian boy, Little Tom, and Saiyu, a pretty Indian woman who rarely spoke, Uley finds the family he never had.
While The Keeper’s Gift is the story of one man’s adventure in the west of old, it is really more a story of one man’s coming of age. Uley leaves Sedalia as a confused person, not knowing what he truly wants. When fate intervenes and hands him a “family” who truly care about him, Uley grows to become the man his father never was. When Uley recounts, “I had not seen my face since I left Sedalia, and I was confused in my attitude on seeing what I looked like after all that time,” it is Dutchy who sees how Uley is really changing and comments, “A new man awaits…”
There are also many words of wisdom spoken, mostly around campfires (perhaps in tribute to the author’s grandfather who insisted on telling his tale around a campfire). The character of Old Chief, in particular, is fond of imparting his wisdom to Uley and the others around a campfire.
While The Keeper’s Gift is a compelling story, it must be noted that there are significant editorial problems. Beyond the frequent misspellings, there are numerous grammatical errors and run-on sentences, some that change tense and/or thought mid-way through. The result is that the book is a difficult read. A judicious editing would turn the text into a much more readable and enjoyable book.
Quill says: With careful editing, The Keeper’s Gift, could be an absorbing story of one man discovering his true worth.