Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke
A Novel

88%

17 Critic Reviews

Instead of focusing on the wages of long-ago sin, as he generally does, Burke...shows the sins actually being committed over several fraught years in the nation’s history. The result is a new spaciousness married to his fine-tuned sense of retribution.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

In his most ambitious work yet, New York Times bestseller James Lee Burke tells a classic American story through one man's unforgettable life.

In 1934, sixteen-year-old Weldon Avery Holland happens upon infamous criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow after one of their notorious armed robberies. A confrontation with the outlaws ends with Weldon firing a gun, unsure whether it hit its mark.

Ten years later, Second Lieutenant Weldon Holland barely survives the Battle of the Bulge, in the process saving the lives of his sergeant, Hershel Pine, and a young Spanish prisoner of war, Rosita Lowenstein—a woman who holds the same romantic power over him as the strawberry blonde Bonnie Parker, and is equally mysterious. The three return to Texas where Weldon and Hershel get in on the ground floor of the nascent oil business.

In just a few years’ time Weldon will spar with the jackals of the industry, rub shoulders with dangerous men, and win and lose fortunes twice over. But it is the prospect of losing his one true love that will spur his most reckless act yet—one inspired by that encounter long ago with the outlaws of his youth.

A tender love story and pulse-pounding thriller, Wayfaring Stranger "is a sprawling historical epic full of courage and loyalty and optimism and good-heartedness that reads like an ode to the American Dream" (Benjamin Percy, Poets & Writers).
 

About James Lee Burke

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James Lee Burke, a rare winner of two Edgar Awards, and named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, is the author of thirty-one previous novels and two collections of short stories, including such New York Times bestsellers as The Glass Rainbow, Swan Peak, The Tin Roof Blowdown, Last Car to Elysian Fields, and Rain Gods. He lives in Missoula, Montana.
 
Published July 15, 2014 by Simon & Schuster. 445 pages
Genres: History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, Arts & Photography, Crime. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Aug 03 2014
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Wayfaring Stranger
All: 17 | Positive: 17 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Good
on Jun 17 2014

Instead of focusing on the wages of long-ago sin, as he generally does, Burke...shows the sins actually being committed over several fraught years in the nation’s history. The result is a new spaciousness married to his fine-tuned sense of retribution.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on May 19 2014

His quest to save his wife generates some suspense, but this is more morality tale than thriller, the story of one man’s struggle to live with integrity in postwar America. Burke...writes with great assurance and wisdom, as well as a kind of bitter nostalgia for lost innocence.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Stephen Harrigan on Aug 15 2014

“Wayfaring Stranger” isn’t a mystery, exactly, though it contains a whole lot of mysterious stuff. It’s more a sprawling narrative rumination on good and evil, with a plot conveniently attached...In some ways, “Wayfaring Stranger” feels almost too big for a novel as big as Texas...But in other crucial ways, it feels exactly the right size.

Read Full Review of Wayfaring Stranger: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Roz Shea on Jul 25 2014

Patton’s breathtaking portrayal of any of Burke’s memorable characters will keep you glued to the wheel of your car, help you escape the mind-numbing monotony of today’s air travel, or simply assist you in getting through a long, hot summer.

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Book Reporter

Excellent
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on Jul 18 2014

At the very least, WAYFARING STRANGER is one of the Great American Novels. Burke recalls a time and place that has all but disappeared, for better and worse, grasping it and recalling it to life with writing so pure, clear and clean that it is impossible to read without repeatedly bringing tears to one’s eyes...

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The Boston Globe

Good
Reviewed by Clea Simon on Jul 29 2014

In his dense new novel, Burke, author of 20 Dave Robicheaux mysteries and numerous other works, explores the very idea of sin. But rather than focus on one crime, or one case, he immerses his protagonist deeper and deeper into the woes of the world as the casualties mount.

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Open Letters Monthly

Good
Reviewed by Steve Donoghue on Oct 14 2014

...in its sweep, Wayfaring Stranger shows even long-time Burke fans a seldom-seen side of this author. Although its narrative urgency virtually never lets up...this feels curiously more relaxed than the Robicheaux books, and its extensive research is incorporated as smoothly as if Burke had been writing historical fiction the whole time.

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Tampa Bay Times

Good
Reviewed by Colette Bancroft on Jul 10 2014

...he gives those themes a sweep across several decades, wrapping them in his signature lushly electrifying descriptions and embodying them in intriguing characters in a tale that is a historical novel, a thriller, a romance and an irresistible read.

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The Big Story

Good
Reviewed by Bruce DeSilva on Jul 21 2014

Burke's last three novels, "Light of the World," ''Creole Belle" and "Feast Day of Fools," were arguably his best. "Wayfaring Stranger" joins them as one of his most powerful and ambitious novels to date.

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The Coast

Excellent
on Jul 18 2014

As always, Burke’s story-craft is flawless, his characters so utterly human, flawed and striving, that you’d hardly be surprised if they stepped out of the pages and stood in front of you.

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North Jersey

Good
Reviewed by Bruce DeSilva on Aug 03 2014

Burke's last three novels, "Light of the World," "Creole Belle" and "Feast Day of Fools," were arguably his best. "Wayfaring Stranger" joins them as one of his most powerful and ambitious novels to date.

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Reviewing the Evidence

Good
Reviewed by Cathy Downs on Jul 01 2014

There are moments of real poetry here. The car that Bonnie and Clyde were driving when Weldon was a boy keeps resurfacing: The getaway car. Burke keeps touching on the area between crime and legality, exploring what real evil might be, and whether the long arm of the law is always allied with good.

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Men Reading Books

Good
Reviewed by West Coast Don on Sep 18 2014

It’s a love story and a family story. It is historical fiction. Burke’s writing style, character development, subplots, and dialogue is as good as anyone. This is the masterwork of a master storyteller.

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MysteriesEtc

Excellent
Reviewed by PoCoKat on Jul 02 2014

James Lee Burke captures a period in American history in a way that no other author can. This is a brilliantly told tale that I know will be hard to forget. You need to read this beautifully written book.

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Pages of Julia's Blog

Good
Reviewed by pagesofjulia on Jul 17 2014

...Wayfaring Stranger is a tender love story, proving yet again his versatility and skill in creating gorgeous, luscious, painful stories of the American experience.

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Historical Novel Review

Good
on Aug 14 2014

James Lee Burke is a talented author and he's written a book that has it all! It is very much a story about right and wrong, of standing by one's personal convictions, and of always being wary of strangers and their motives.

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[Fikt]shun

Excellent
Reviewed by Fiktshun009 on Jul 16 2014

It is a fascinating, beautiful, heartrending and masterfully written story that is unparalleled and absolutely unforgettable.

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Reader Rating for Wayfaring Stranger
82%

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