Cordelia Underwood, or the Marvelous Beginnings of the Moosepath League

Written by Van Reid
Review by Steve Lewis

After reading so many westerns over the course of the years, it comes as a distinct pleasure to read an “eastern” for a change. Maine, that is, in the year 1896.

The Underwoods, and their unmarried 23-year-old daughter Cordelia, are the center of this slightly unfocused (but hilarious) novel. Cordelia’s Uncle Basil, a man of the sea, has died abroad, and now a mysterious caller leaves word that his chest will soon be delivered to them. In the chest, a legacy for Cordelia, and a mysterious message in code.

There are three parts to the story, however, converging and intermingling throughout the 400 pages it takes to tell it. Tobias Walton, portly and jolly, is heir to the Walton shoe dynasty. To his surprise, he is about to become the chairman of the as-yet-unformed club called The Moosepath League — the brainchild of three rather clueless bachelors, Ephram, Eagleton and Thump, whose adventures form the third branch of the interwoven tale.

Off in many directions at once, at times the book seems little more than an excuse for a succession of tall Yankee yarns, bringing a smile at nearly every page, and a chuckle at the end of every chapter. Some sudden twists of the plot occur, however, and just as quickly, there’s a mystery to be solved. Wonderful!

A ghostly apparition, a sea monster, an escaped trained bear, a moose (of course) tangled in red-flannel underwear, a kidnapping, a treasure chest (perhaps), a female balloonist (in tights), a romance (or two) — does that sum it up? A book for the Romantic at heart, and as James Underwood says on page 30: “Is there any other place to be one?”