2016 Tale Review Contest winners

What role do you think Scott plays in Wesley’s journey toward peace in the town of Black River?

 “Ain’t as black and white as it seems.”
This was the observation from Wesley concerning the confrontation at school between Scott and the other students,
At first I did not think Scott  played  a  major role in the book.  But when I read this quote again, his statement was in such sharp contrast to his demeanor in the rest of the book.  It is almost like he is admitting there is some gray in the world, as oppossed to clear right and wrong or black and white. He respected all the rules in  the other aspects of his life.  He displayed his rigidness while working at the prison and during the illness of his wife.  But, when it came to the situation regarding Scott, his position was not as unwavering. Perhaps this was the opportunity for him to acknowledge the vagaries of life.
Peggy Lamb


In the novel, Black River by S.M. Hulse the protagonist, Wesley Carver, embarks on a tireless journey in search of peace after a prison riot and the death of his beloved wife Claire. While in the town of Black River, Montana, Wes encounters his step-son Dennis, as well as a teenager named Scott Bannon. The character of Scott became crucial in Wesley’s quest for peace and happiness. Scott was able to help Wes grieve and fill a part of his life that had been missing. Mentoring Scott and teaching him how to play the fiddle provided a purpose in Wesley’s life, a purpose that dissipated with Claire’s death. For Wes, peace of mind could only be achieved through forgiveness. He needed to forgive Bobby for the unimaginable pain he inflicted, but also himself for the regrets, conflicts, and mistakes present in his life.
Jasmine Plummer


Unknowingly, Scott Bannon played a major role in Wesley’s journey towards obtaining inner peace with his dark past in Black River. Scott reminded Wesley of the connection he once had with his stepson Dennis, prior to his abrupt and remorseless departure from Black River. Throughout the novel, we learn that Wesley is crippled from an injury caused by the infamous prison riot, and unable to play his beloved fiddle. He begins to accept his fate when he starts channeling his unused energy into Scott. Immediately, Wesley recognizes something special inside of Scott; a connection with music so deep that it resembles his own. This is where the connection sparked, as Scott symbolized Wes and Dennis’s past relationship that is longed for once again by Wes. Throughout the novel, Wesley’s experiences with Scott guide him to peace and forgiveness in his true home of Black River.
Amanda Blackburn


In the beautifully crafted story, Black River, Wesley is a widowed, retired corrections officer maimed during a riot at Black River prison. He returns home to scatter his wife’s ashes bringing him to his estranged step-son and the chance to attend the parole hearing of his torturer.
During this trip, Wesley meets Scott, a troubled teen, bullied at school, new to  town because his father is incarcerated at the prison.  Wesley tries helping Scott adapt to living in Black River and as a result Wes revisits the gifts and demons of his own life.
Through Scott, Wesley realizes the spiritual power of fiddling and his ability to still share this gift.  Because of Scott, Wesley reassesses suicide, the value of life, the power of listening, and the advantage of being slow to judge or maybe not judge at all. Wesley now sees with new eyes and understands redemption.
Angela Knisley


The novel ends with Wesley and Dennis, “father and son,” beginning a conversation. What do you think the novel suggests the future holds for the two men?

Wesley and Dennis will have a future together at least as friends, if not as father and son.  The most common bond between them is their love for Claire and their need to try to do what they both knew she wanted.  In addition, both men learned more about each other in their effort to help Scott. Dennis’s failure to save Scott from his struggle with the sins of his father helped him to understand Wesley’s struggle when raising him.  Wesley learned that in his effort to ensure Dennis didn’t turn out like his father that he had been too stern and didn’t show the compassion that Dennis needed.
Wesley’s encounter with Williams helped Wesley to see himself as having more faith then he had thought.  Wesley’s decision to believe Williams freed him to see himself and Dennis more clearly.   Wes and Dennis will always have their differences, but now they are at a place where they can at least listen to each other.
Liz Saleh, Batavia

The novel ends with the reconnection of Wesley and Dennis with their first real “father-son” conversation. This newfound connection acts as foreshadowing to what their future holds. With the closure Wesley receives from speaking to Williams and Dennis behaving to grieve over Rio both the men are finally vulnerable enough to be able to connect with each other. Dennis has finally realized why Wes was so rigid after the riot when he sees the scars for the first time. Wesley in turn realizes that Rio acted as a comfort to Dennis when he wasn’t there for him. With the void becoming prominent again Wes realizes that they have both matured and are ready for the relationship they both had always wanted.
Jenna Doran, Lyndonville High School


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