Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: Cannons for the Cause

Book Review 5/5 *****

Ganzglass, Martin R., 2014, Cannons for the Cause, Peace Corps worldwide,, ISBN 978-1-935925-38-5, trade paperback, 336 pages. $11.69 from Amazon

I should mention that the only other novel of the American Revolution I have read is Johnny Tremaine, which I read before I entered high school. In the interests of full disclosure I should also point out that I read Cannons for the Cause because I know the author. I have read Ganzglass's first novel, The Orange Tree, which is loosely based on his own family. I thoroughly enjoyed that book, but this one is incomparably better. Clearly, writing The Orange Tree was good experience. Ganzglass has gone from good to excellent.

Cannons for the Cause is the tale of Willem Stoner, a farm boy from upstate New York, who is caught up in in the war for independence. 16-year-old Willem is hired, along with a team of horses and a wagon, to help take cannons to liberate Boston from the British. A great many things happen to the young farm boy as he plunges from rural isolation into war, and into the heart of urban America.

Willem has never been far from home, but he is good at making friends and he quickly fits in with the other teamsters and the soldiers with whom they are traveling. It is winter, and wrestling heavy cannons over the mountains in the snow is back-breaking work. The original plan is for Willem to take his team only part way to Boston, and hand “his” cannon over to someone else. It turns out that the Continental Army has trouble finding enough teamsters. Willem is only too happy to continue to Boston. He has not had a happy home life, and is dreading the day when he has to return to his abusive father. He is thoroughly enjoying this opportunity to help get the cannons to where they are desperately needed, and to show what he can do when free of his father's dominion. Outside of Boston, he uses his team to carry powder, food, and other supplies to wherever they are needed. Soon the artillery bombardment begins, and face-to-face battle can't be far away. Cannons for the Cause takes Willem through the battle for Boston and its aftermath. At the end of the book the battle's won but the war's not over. We will see Willem again.

Ganzglass researched the setting of Cannons for the Cause thoroughly, and it shows. But it shows in a good way. He doesn't stuff the book with facts to prove he knows what he's talking about. Willem notices what a bright 16-year-old would notice in a war. He sees what he really would encounter dragging a cannon over a mountain, helping to set up an artillery emplacement, and fighting for his life. What hit me most strongly about this book was the people, not the accurate background. The characters are three-dimensional, their interactions are extremely realistic, and I found myself turning pages as fast as I could right to the end. I can hardly wait for the sequel.

Five out of five stars, if you are counting. This book is fine for young adults: young protagonist; no sex. There's plenty of tension on other fronts to appeal to young folks.

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