Two deserters from the Civil War wreak havoc on the lives of many, but no more so than fourteen-year old preacher's kid, Matthew. Set in Montana territory near the end of the Civil War, deserters and brothers, Ike and Raymond, are left to make it on their own and travel to take what is not theirs, the memory of war still on their minds and violence a means for survival. The men come across a preacher who is kind and giving, but they murder him anyway. They then kidnap the preacher's son, Matthew, whose world had been free of harm or tragedy until that day. Matthew struggles with understanding good and evil and believes that in order to survive, he must partake in the most heinous of sins. The adolescent boy eventually abandons the teachings in which he was raised and embraces the mindless violence he witnesses.
In due course, Matthew escapes from his kidnappers and is taken under the wing of ranch owner, J.T. Elder, and his cowboys, and taught how to survive without the need for violence, but it takes time to undo the harm that had been done to him. He must prove himself in the harshest of situations and return to his mother whole again--(aka a nice Christian boy.)
At first, “Unbroke Horses” seems like a typical western novel, but it turns out that it takes on some biblical themes, using an old horse trainer, who is an Indian that Matthew despises, as well as an unbroken horse that tried to kill him. The violence is graphic and unforgiving in this novel, but seems necessary when showing the wonder of forgiveness as the story concludes.
Best part of story, including ending:
The writing was very good and it wasn't a typical western since where most books would conclude, the author wrapped up some important details.
Best scene in story:
J.T. Elder takes on Matthew and doesn't coddle him when they first meet. He realizes that the boy has been seriously damaged mentally and so puts him to work on the ranch.
Opinion about the main character:
The main characters in this book changed from the two deserters to a fourteen year old boy, so I will focus on the boy. I liked that he was believable and vulnerable when he realized he needed to go against his upbringing in order to survive.