Oz Destiny

From Broadway to the Cowboy Way – A Different Kind of Western

Fiction - Western
291 Pages
Reviewed on 07/12/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite

When a writer as skilled as Gregg Norman authors a story as entertaining as Oz Destiny, and manages to engage the reader’s attention as vividly as some lucid dream, and this mostly by way of voice-over narration - like Morgan Freeman or Wilfred Brimley relating a compelling biopic tale to a small enraptured group of friends sat around their country stove - well, one simply has to stand up and take due notice with an appreciative nod. For this is storytelling at its best. The kind that makes one yearn for solitude and a big old mug of coffee, or perhaps a whiskey straight. This is a western tale, after all; told with a master storyteller’s voice as authentic as the hills.

Central to Gregg Norman’s outstanding novel, Oz Destiny, Ozymandias (Oz) and Rathbone (Rat) are two very likable if independent orphaned boys sent out west for acquisition by needy families seeking children, labor, or nefarious cohorts for underhanded deeds. They become fast friends while traveling on the Orphan Train, and they remain so upon arrival at their supposedly-final destination: in fact, only a beginning for some total life immersion (good and bad), future great adventures (good and bad), fascinating engagements with an eclectic assortment of truly unique characters (good and bad), and encounters with those overriding necessities (good and bad) that test two such mutually committed friends. Not to mention horses. All those lovely horses. Inhabiting an unforgettable story like an early taste of heaven amidst a bit of hell. A glimpse of which (the good and bad), this novel proves to be.

Shrabastee Chakraborty

Oz Destiny by Gregg Norman recounts the tale of Ozymandias, a boy born to an ambitious Broadway actress. Leaving his selfish mother and weak-willed foster father, Oz boards a westbound train carrying orphan children. Here, he meets Rathbone, aka Rat, a boy of diminutive stature with whom he forges a lifelong friendship. Together they drift from place to place, chancing farms, entertainment caravans, and horse-breeding ranches. They fall in love but are compelled to leave their love interests. With a long-cherished adoration for horses and an unbreakable bond with Rat, Oz's life as a horseman is full of countless adventures. Yet a burning passion for Mary Ransom keeps haunting him. Will he be able to express his love and live a satisfying life with Mary?

Gregg Norman masterfully sketches diverse ways of life that are vastly different. From the highly competitive Broadway life to an uncertain yet exciting cowboy life - the pages of Oz Destiny have much to offer. The story is full of unexpected twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat. Although many characters appear in the story in quick succession, each makes a lasting impression with their distinctive traits. As a period piece, this novel touches many socio-political issues prevalent at the time, such as slavery, racism, social unrest, and war. Throughout the events of the book, Oz and Rat's steady friendship shines like a beacon. I would heartily recommend this adventure-filled book to those who appreciate historical fiction, especially the western genre.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Oz Destiny, Oz being short for Ozymandias, had a difficult childhood. His mother, an actress, didn’t want him; his father, probably not his natural father, was more interested in the mother. At a young age, Oz snuck away to an orphanage, changed his name, and boarded an orphan train along with a new friend, a dwarf named Rat, short for Rathbone. The two boys were adopted in the same town, Oz to a kind farmer, Rat to a brutal couple who treated him poorly. The two were inseparable, so when Oz decided to escape, so did Rat. The adventures they shared on their travels west were typical of the post Civil War era, fraught with danger. Together, they were up to each challenge, including the three days they spent in a tree together to avoid a hungry bear.

Gregg Norman’s Oz Destiny: From Broadway to the Cowboy Way – A Different Kind of Western, has all the makings of a good American cowboy adventure. The plot progresses with increasing intensity and lots of drama and excitement. His characters are well developed and the setting described in a manner that invites the reader into the story. It’s interesting that the author chose the name Ozymandias, king of kings, and Destiny as a prophetic surname. For this stalwart Broadway brat turned rugged cowboy, life was a quest not so different from knights of old. It is evident that the author knows the history of this era – Civil War and post Civil War – and the challenges of life in the wild west, making the story believable. A good read.