Alan Geoffrion invested more than five years doing research for the book, “The Broken Trail,” focusing on — and then combining — two separate, but historically accurate stories. The first was about the forced prostitution of young Chinese girls who were taken from the far West and brought into the interior of the U.S. — in this case to Wyoming. The second was about the sale of western horses to the British Army.
An uncle, Prentice “Prent” Ritter, and his nephew, Tom Harte, embark on a trip from Oregon to South Dakota to deliver 500-plus horses, make a little money and hopefully mend some family issues. Along the way, they become stewards of five stolen young Chinese girls who were destined for forced prostitution. Ritter and Harte try to save the girls — and the horse herd — from those who would steal one or both. It’s a wide-open story, taking place in the wide-open plains of middle America and with a bit more moral complexity than many of our standard Westerns.
Prent is a man who is comfortable with the life decisions he’s made and is clear on what he wants and needs to do. Tom is still wrestling with demons, as many internal as external. Both men change over the course of the trip, hopefully for the better.
This very enjoyable read also became a very enjoyable Robert Duvall movie.