I love independent bookshops, and I picked this up when one of my local ones was having a sale. Second-hand books were being sold off for 2 for a pound! Well, obviously I couldn’t resist that and dived in to spend a happy half hour browsing. As usual my eyes wandered and I started browsing the books not on the sale shelf too…
The Scapeweed Goat with its bizarre cover picture couldn’t fail to catch my eye. It was first published in 1989 and the blurb quickly persuaded me it was worth a lot more than the princely sum of £1.00 that they were asking for it and soon it was on its way home with me, ready to share itself once more.
The first paragraph reminded me of Cold Mountain – a book that beguiled me with its poetic prose whilst assaulting me with the harshness of life. And in some respects The Scapeweed Goat does that too. However, this story covers the yearning of the human spirit to be looked after. Ironically it examines it through the eyes of a pioneer wishing to live in solitude with his new wife.
Written as a confessional journal of an old man, J tells the story of what happened in wilds of America back in 1899, when his idyllic life with his young wife was disturbed by the arrival of David. David has escaped from a nearby utopian community and is being pursued by guards desperate to get him back, the ramifications of this change J’s life forever.
It is an absorbing narrative and though parts of it are fantastical to our modern minds it is nevertheless utterly believable and authentic.
Frank Schaeffer is a fantastic writer and this should join the ranks of Lord of the Flies and To Kill A Mockingbird as a manuscript offered to our youngsters to stimulate their minds.