Set in 1871, Shavetail
is the story of Private Ned Thorne, a seventeen year old boy from Connecticut who has lied about his age to join the U.S. Army. On the run from a shameful past, he enlists in the army with dreams of adventure and honor and heroism, but he soon finds himself stationed at the farthest edge of the country, the stark desert of the Arizona territories, home to a variety of unpleasant creatures: rattlesnakes and scorpions and a company of disgraced soldiers.
Before Ned arrives at the outpost, two men are found murdered by Apaches at a nearby ranch, and a woman is missing, her diary the only evidence she ever existed. The captain in command, a man deeply haunted by his own past mistakes, determines that the small and ragged troop must pursue the Indians and rescue the woman.
Captivated by the woman's meticulous diary entries, Ned soon finds he may have a chance at heroism after all.
Not only a riveting adventure tale, Shavetail
is a story of regret and redemption, of desperation and hope and second chances.
Questions for Discussion:
1. In the beginning of the novel, Brickner explains to Ned, "That's a shavetail, a young, green mule that hasn't learned his tasks yet. He can't go by himself. He's always got to be paired with an older, smarter mule. He's you, and I'm the older, smarter one" (page 31). Do you think that this is an accurate portrayal of Ned? Is it an accurate portrayal of Brickner? In many ways, Sha