|The Great Wild West by Jeff Appelquist|
The main character, Jedediah Magnus West, grows up in 1950s and 60s America. He has a fairly normal upbringing within the dynamics of his nuclear family. There is a sense of nostalgic homage in Appelquist's engaging description of a simpler time during Jed's upbringing.
"There was a dad who worked in an office, a mom who stayed home with the kids and cooked and cleaned and showed concern, a sister, and two brothers who went to school and played outside... He went back to school in September as brown as a berry. The family ate dinner together in the evenings. They left the back door unlocked... They attended church every Sunday. They were Patriotic."
As the book progresses, the reader is drawn into an intimate portrait of the West family and friends. Beneath the pretty package of normality and the archetypal family life, each character is displayed with a glaring truth of the past, present and future. From the gloomy and dire recesses of past experience to the fruition of status quo, the reader is privy to an eloquent and succinct introduction of these unique, individual lives.
"Bringing up the rear in 1958, Jedediah Magnus West arrived, perhaps a planned baby, perhaps not. His parents never would say definitively one way or the other, which led Jed in later years to think that maybe his proper name should have been Jedediah M. (for Mistake) West."
The story contains a sharp, intuitive and hilarious narrative.
"Jack and Gloria West, like a lot of parents, were a damn sight more observant and sophisticated than any of their children ever gave them credit for... As she moved into adolescence, Jack and Gloria privately discussed the possibility that their daughter might be a lesbian."
Nothing is swept under the rug or ignored. Dealing with such issues as sexuality, race, and religion, the reader is given a realistic view of the many concerns that plagued most family values.
Following Jed's journey and evolution from Midwest schoolboy, to Marine officer, to family man, Appelquist outlines an amazing life that is indefinably American. An amazingly inclusive tale of "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps", and adhering to a general sense of self-conduct and honor that seems almost a distant memory in this day and age; The Great Wild West is symbolic of what we as a nation seem to have left behind.
The book is heart wrenching, edgy, and beautiful: "Nothing is perfect, nothing is permanent... but anything is possible." The past does not define an individual, nor does the present circumstance stymie the hopes and dreams that one may choose to play out during an entire lifetime. It is most certainly our future choices that guide us, and our own principles that maintain our integrity.
Jeff Appelquist is a former college athlete, Marine officer, practicing attorney, and corporate executive. His first two books, Sacred Ground and Wisdom Is Not Enough, won a dozen literary awards between them, including multiple first-place prizes in the Writer's Digest International, National Indie Excellence, and Midwest Book Awards.
The Great Wild West by Jeff Appelquist, 2013 ISBN 978-1-59298-993-5