Christina’s Review: Jake Miller’s Wheel by James Ostby

jake millers wheelJake Miller’s Wheel  by James Ostby

Published: March 15, 2014 by James Ostby
Format/Source: Advanced Reading Copy from Author on Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 284


In this Dostoyevskian novel, Jake Miller, a minor character drawn from James Ostby’s first literary work-Men With Broken Faces-is a homesteader in northeastern Montana who suffers life to a higher degree than do most people. Uneducated, though intelligent and noble of spirit, he plods on over the open prairie and the vast wheatfields of his life, trying to find solace in farming, everyday life, and through his somewhat ironic sense of humor.

Jake is haunted by both his Wheel of Life and the Fatidic Light. His Wheel of Life, more like a grindstone, is a relentless psychological encumbrance that he has had to endure from childhood. Its severity varies from mild to unbearable, though Jake has no choice but to suffer it valiantly and with little complaint. The Fatidic Light is more frightening. It is an actual hallucination that Jake first sees as a harbinger of misery and doom. Only late in life does he discover its essence. A main thread through the book is Jake’s ups and downs as he struggles for peace and normalcy. In his continual and noble efforts to endure his difficult existence, he turns to philosophy, religion, and to any other contrivance or device that makes his way easier.


What is the meaning of life? What is reality? What is our purpose? James Ostby follows Jake Miller as he seeks out his purpose and reality…the meaning of his “Wheel of Life.” Jake has been described as both normal and strange by others. He has fought through life and had his ups and downs. There is a mystery to the character and his former life carried on throughout the book. I found myself wondering, what is the meaning of life, what will it take for Jake to find his solace, and how far will he go to discover these.

The author first introduced Jake Miller in his book Men with Broken Faces. (A great book following Morgan Feeney through WWI and post-war) When reading Jake Miller’s Wheel, the reader is re-introduced to characters who were in Men with Broken Faces. I was so excited when I met Morgan again in Mr. Ostby’s second book. Morgan’s character was still very likeable to me, and I kept wanting to follow his life again through this new book. It was fun to re-meet other characters from the previous book throughout Jake Miller’s Wheel as well. I definitely recommend reading Men with Broken Faces prior to starting Jake Miller’s Wheel…the nostalgia is worth it!

Throughout Jake Miller’s Wheel, there was love and tragedy, there was action and there was the long wait for the rain… waiting on the daily grind of life to pick up or slow down… or to begin. The “Wheel of Life” could be good at times, and then at others could spin out of control. It was all part of reality. Jake connects with other characters going through the motions and seeking the same things for themselves throughout. Characters came and went… it was hard for me to become attached to any, with the exception of Morgan Feeney and Mable (Jake’s wife).

Jake Miller’s Wheel progressed slower than the previous book from Mr. Ostby I read. I kept expecting a big “pick-up” life event, but that is not exactly what I received. Life just…happened. The author followed the life of an every-day person in Montana living through post-WWI, through Prohibition, through the Great Depression and on. It was life, and Jake went on living as he could, seeing this “Fatadic Light” and feeling the grind of his “Wheel.” It was a deep book that kept me thinking, and it kept me highlighting on my Kindle throughout trying to continue to make connections in the development of Jake’s character. When I hit Part IV, I was captivated by the turn of events. I did not see this turn coming… a good twist, just like in Mr. Ostby’s previous book. I’m still thinking about Jake Miller and his “Wheel of Life,” pondering everything and the way it played out…

What do you think?

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