EPITAPH: an epic, incisive journey into the heart of an American myth

Posted: July 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

In a previous review, I was discussing a novel called DOC, by Mary Doria Russell, a novel that I loved for the aura of grit and authenticity it created around its characters and setting.

The sequel to said novel, titled EPITAPH, takes the points in which its predecessor shined to the next level.

The subtitle to this sprawling saga is “A Novel of the OK Corral”.It’s a good thing wasn’t “A Novel About the OK Corral” because  if we were to title it according to what it actually is, the cover would probably need to be 20 times wider, because there’s so, so much more to this book than just the OK Corral in and of itself. In fact, as we’re reminded by the author, the shooutout in and of itself took 30 seconds.

Which is why I believe Ms. Mary Doria Russell is one of, if not the most compelling voice in American historical fiction that I have ever come across. To be able to build an almost 600-page novel around what is basically half a minute of American history, one has to know what they’re talking about.

And, trust me, you know that you don’t NEED my confirmation that Ms. Russell knows what she’s talking about. Like its predecessor, EPITAPH is an immersive, impeccably  researched labor of love.

When one says the word “Western”, everyone seems to know what they refer to: a piece of fiction, whether on paper or on screen, which deals with a certain period in American history where things were very clearly settled between gentlemen with wide-brimmed hats of opposing colors. Right?

Aaaand then, there’s EPITAPH, the aforementioned labor of love which prefers honest-to-God authenticity and believability to larger-than-life pomp and circumstance. That’s why this novel is so brilliant. It is an excellent, one-of-a-kind answer to the heavily romanticized perspectives that have become such a common trope in Western fiction. It focuses on the motivations and feelings of all the characters involved in the story, from the Wyatt brothers and Doc Holliday, to the Clantons and McLaurys. In the middle of it all is Sarah Josephine “Sadie” Marcus, the Jewish woman who hero-worshipped Wyatt Earp like none other. It is through her perspective that the novel becomes much more than a novel about the OK Corral. It becomes an enthralling meditation about justice, honor, truth, fiction, a true-ringing testament of the undeniable power of myth. In fact, myth is at the very core of the novel, with Homeric quotations being used for every chapter and section title.  This is a gritty, violent, bitter, sweet, sad, funny, depressing and uplifting saga that is sure to become an American classic. Heartily recommended, and we’re not talking stars, but constellations for this solid yarn! Thank you, Ms. Doria! Superb read! As in the previous review, the views expressed herein are mine and my own entirely.


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