HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Cherokee Trail
Author: Louis L’Amour
Cover Illustrator: Gregory Manchess
Publisher: Bantam Dell, republished in 1996
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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L’Amour, Louis. The Cherokee Trail (published in 1982 by Bantam Dell, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY). Mary Breydon is a young widow and mother during the Civil War. She grew up on a wealthy plantation named Harlequin Oaks in Virginia. Her husband, Major Marshall Breydon, fought for the North. The plantation, which his wife inherited from her family, was looted and destroyed by guerillas hated by both North and South led by Jason Flandreau. Then Major Breydon was injured in battle and upon his discharge was hired to run the stagecoach station on the Cherokee Trail in the Colorado territory. However, Flandreau also went west, saw Breydon on his way, and killed him in a gunfight. So now Mary and her daughter Peg are coming to take his place. Right off, Mary, using a bullwhip, must fire the current station manager, Scant Luther, who vows revenge.
With the help of several people, including Matty Maginnis, a spirited Irish immigrant, Temple Boone, a Shane-like drifter who is reputed to be a dangerous man with a gun, Wat Tanner, an orphaned waif, Ridge Fenton, a hired hand, and Preston Collier, a powerful and wealthy neighbor, along with Mark Stacy, stage line division agent, and Wilbur Pattishal, the stage driver, she turns Cherokee Station into the best on the line. However, Jason Flandreau is now in Colorado trying to gain power and prestige while hiding his sordid past. Mary is sure that when he learns who and where she is, he will try to eliminate her too. Also there are rumors that famous outlaw Denver Cross is planning to rob the stage. Mary faces all kinds of challenges, such as tracking down stolen horses, defending against Indian attacks, handling harassment from Scant Luther, and dealing with men like Jordy Neff whom Flandreau secretly sends to see if he can kill her. How can she do her work while protecting herself and Peg from all these dangers?
Louis L’Amour was my mother’s favorite Western author. While my father preferred Zane Grey, he also read a lot of Louis L’Amour books. I am really not that fond of Westerns, but we got this book because the Walt Disney series Five Mile Creek is loosely based on it, although the location was transferred to Australia. It is a gripping story. There is, unfortunately, some bad language, primarily the “d” and “h” words. I say unfortunately because L’Amour was such a good writer that he could have told a great story without resorting to cursing and profanity, but that’s the way it is. Obviously, the book is not for children, but we did it as a family read aloud so I was able to edit out the offending words. Also, this is a typical Western with its share of shooting and killing. For example, Mary finally has to shoot Scant Luther, and Temple has to shoot Jordy Neff. The accounts are not given in gruesome detail, but if you want to avoid books with things like this, don’t read Louis L’Amour! However, the book probably gives a pretty good picture of what life was like in Colorado during the 1860s. All of us enjoyed it.