Book of the Week: Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke

By Simon McDonald, Editorial Manager |

Every Monday we spotlight the new release we’re most excited about. This week the spotlight is on Wayfaring Stranger by veteran author James Lee Burke.

Wayfaring Stranger 2 books

It is 1934, and the Depression is bearing down when 16-year-old Weldon Avery Holland happens upon infamous criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow after one of their notorious armed robberies. A confrontation with the outlaws ends as Weldon puts a bullet through the rear window of Clyde’s stolen automobile.

Ten years later, Second Lieutenant Weldon Holland and his sergeant, Hershel Pine, escape certain death in the Battle of the Bulge and encounter a beautiful young woman named Rosita Lowenstein hiding in a deserted extermination camp. Eventually, Weldon and Rosita fall in love and marry and, with Hershel, return to Texas to seek their fortunes. There, they enter the domain of jackals known as the oil business. They meet Roy Wiseheart, a former Marine aviator haunted with guilt for deserting his squadron leader over the South Pacific, and Roy’s wife Clara, a vicious anti-Semite who is determined to make Weldon and Rosita’s life a nightmare. It will be the frontier justice upheld by Weldon’s grandfather, Texas lawman Hackberry Holland, and the legendary antics of Bonnie and Clyde that shape Weldon’s plans for saving his family from the evil forces that lurk in peacetime America and threaten to destroy them all.

Suncoast says:


“This is a very different James Lee Burke (JLB) novel to his popular Dave Robicheaux detective thrillers. This is a book about good and evil in life seen through the eyes of Weldon Holland who grew up in Texas during the Depression, fought in WWII and returned home to try to make his fortune. It is written by a master storyteller whose prose, as usual, is remarkable and atmospheric.

This is a landmark and very different novel by a master storyteller. It is part love story, part family/historical saga, part thriller and in total I consider it is a modern morality story. JLB is now 77 years old and I suspect that this is the book he has wanted to write for some time. It will certainly remain in my memory for some time. Highly recommended for discerning readers.”5 Stars


Simon McDonald [Editorial Manager] says:

Simon McDonaldWayfaring Stranger is epic in scope; a novel that traverses decades, spotlighting the life and times of a man with seemingly infallible moral convictions, whose entire life is founded on one moment, from his childhood, when he fired at the rear window of Bonnie and Clyde’s absconding vehicle. There’s poetry in James Lee Burke’s prose, evident in Holland’s descriptions of his wife, Rosita, and the love he feels for his grandfather, a hard man, whose gruffness he has grown to appreciate. This is a powerful story, a true character study, and one that demands re-reading.

Wayfaring Stranger isn’t merely a great love story, a great historical saga, or a fast-paced thriller: it’s a wonderful novel, period. I couldn’t tell you if it’s one of James Lee Burke’s best, but if it’s not, my goodness, we’re going to need an amended star-rating system.”

Will you be reading Wayfaring Stranger? Share your thoughts with TheReadingRoom community.