Journey in the Dark casts light on early 20th century

Martin Flavin’s fictional memoir Journey in the Dark traces the footsteps of Sam Braden, who, his best friend says, is “a lonely man, going nowhere, in the dark.”

Sam grows up poor, the son of a honest woman of good character and a lazy adventurer who ran out of money in the Mississippi Riverbank town of Wyattville, Iowa, in the 1880s.

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Journey in the Dark by Martin Flavin

Harper & Brothers, 1943.  The Franklin Library Limited Edition, 1978,

Illus. Charles Hamrick, 456 pp. My grade: A-.


Sam decides early in life that he doesn’t want to remain poor. He also decides he wants to marry Eileen Wyatt.

All of Wyattsville, including Eileen, knows she is destined to marry her cousin Neill Wyatt.

Sam works from the age of 10, making enough money to marry Eileen, but not enough to make her love him instead of Neill.

Though Sam spends his life trying to live down the ignominy of growing up poor, he never escapes his Wyattville roots. His family is intertwined with others in town on both sides of the tracks.

After he’s made his millions, Sam returns to Wyattville in time to see the sleepy town transformed by America’s preparations for World War II.

Through Sam, Flavin shows how the social and economic conditions of childhood influence the kind of adults Sam, his siblings, and his peers become.

Flavin won a Pulitzer Prize in 1944 for this novel.

The book deserves it.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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