Heartache Along the Cannonball
We're just six days out from the release of Heartache Along the Cannonball, the debut novel from Ronald L. Pollworth. The book is officially releasing in both digital and paperback versions on Tuesday, October 24th, but you can pre-order the digital copy here.
Based on the diary of his great uncle, Charles Adams, Heartache Along the Cannonball offers a glimpse of what it was like to transition from a boy to a young man at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The novel opens with Charles and his family on their small Wisconsin farm. As Charles contemplates his impending adulthood and the responsibilities it will bring, his parents secretly plan to move their family to North Dakota, where they will claim a homestead four times the size of their farm.
As the novel progresses, the world around Charles changes as much as his personal circumstances. Horse drawn wagons are traded for the first automobiles, rail lines expand, connecting the country, and many farmers and ranchers retire from their fields in favor of industrial and service jobs in growing towns. The two constants are Charles’s work ethic and his feelings for Dorothy, his first love.
Still unaware of his parents’ plan, Charles meets and falls in love with Dorothy after her family takes over a nearby farm. Dorothy returns Charles’s affections and they promise themselves to each other. Their world is shaken when Charles’s parents finally announce their plan. Charles reluctantly agrees that the move is in his family’s best interest. His only fear in leaving is that Dorothy will be left vulnerable to Frank, a bully who’s terrorized and threatened the young couple.
The family leaves Wisconsin with high hopes for their future in North Dakota. But when they arrive, they realize their homestead isn’t the fertile, farmable land they’d hoped for. Charles takes an isolated job on a cattle ranch and sends his wages home to support his family. He learns quickly and excels at his job, but never lets go of his love for Dorothy. Eventually, his past catches up with him in the best and the worst possible ways.
Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genres and I have a soft spot for cowboy stories, in particular. When I first met Mr. Pollworth and he told me about his novel, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. When I finally did, I wasn’t disappointed. I love that excerpts from Charles’s diary are included. They add an extra layer of authenticity to a very realistic narrative and make me feel more invested in Charles’s story.
Heartache Along the Cannonball is a coming of age story and a love story, but it also offers an accurate portrayal of life during the time period. Today, most people would have an anxiety attack just thinking about selling off most of their belongings and leaving their home behind, with nothing but a stranger’s promise that the grass is greener on the other side. But the Adams family did just that, with very little hesitation. And when the promise wasn’t fulfilled, they adjusted their plans and found a way to thrive.
The closeness of the Adams Family, the tension between Charles and the bully, Frank, and Charles’s undying love for Dorothy kept me hooked from the first page to the last, and beyond. Mr. Pollworth definitely leaves his readers wanting more. I’d love to have a cup of coffee with Charles and bombard him with questions about his life after Heartache. Since that’s not possible, I’ll cross my fingers and hope for a sequel.