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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
The Buster Clan: An American Saga by K.P. Kollenborn is a deep dive into the author’s family history and the ancestors who were, in their small way, a part of shaping and building the United States. Using stories, legends, and sometimes myths from his family’s past, the author traces the movements, seminal events, and dark side of the Buster family, who first arrived on American shores well before the Revolutionary War. From the tobacco fields of Virginia to the Deep South and across the Midwest to the newly opened areas of New Mexico, Nevada, and beyond, the Buster clan has spread its wings far and wide over the centuries. Through family anecdotes and well-researched and documented historical records, the author will show the very best and the seedier side of many members of this widespread clan. From farmers and slave owners, the members of the Buster family would enter all fields of human endeavor, from military service to law enforcement; they became artists, poets, writers, teachers, entrepreneurs, politicians, doctors, scientists, and yes, some even gained reputations as brutal and dangerous killers. This story unfolds a family history that parallels the unfoldment of the United States.
The Buster Clan: An American Saga is an intriguing read. I have read many family history stories, and so often, they are just a dry recitation of dates, places, and facts, but author K.P. Kollenborn has managed to capture the essence of the periods described in the narrative. Presenting anecdotal evidence alongside indisputable historical documentation and comparing and contrasting the two keeps the story flowing with a gentle cadence. What impressed me most was the author’s systematic research and beautifully presented footnotes and citations to back up the sometimes-anecdotal narrative. I truly appreciated that the author did not pull any punches in describing the sometimes dark and seamy side of family members, especially concerning the participants’ treatment of both the enslaved and the indigenous population with whom they frequently came into contact, as the family continued their relentless surge westward. This is more than just one clan’s history, though. The author presents us with a true social and cultural examination of the times when the various Buster family members lived. I truly enjoyed many of the human stories of individual exploits of different family members. Certainly, the stories that stick in my mind the most are those of the Buster woman, especially those who were prepared to buck the social and legal constraints of the time and seek education, employment, and even property, outside of the normal roles assigned to women. I thoroughly enjoyed this extremely readable book and can highly recommend it.