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A Middle-Aged Woman Examines Her Past, 3.5 stars
on March 5, 2012
There are several male authors who are generally regarded as having a great ability to write from the perspective of a female character. When I read these authors I disagree with the assessment, most notably because they fail to capture the true complexity that is the essence of being a woman. Jim Harrison is an exception. With the character of Dalva, he explores all the layers of conflict and identity that are part of growing up female in a patriarchal society.
Dalva, at the age of 45, leaves California and returns to her native Nebraska. There she confronts all of her ghosts and finally recognizes that she has defined her entire life by the males she has loved and lost: her grandfather, father, first love, and then the son she was made to give up for adoption. As the book comes to an end, there's a glimmer of hope that she'll put the past to rest and start living for the present.
The subplot deals with Dalva's Sioux heritage. She's only one-eighth Indian, but her white great-grandfather was a great friend of the Sioux and left many journals. The secrets are slowly revealed as a Stanford scholar works his way through the journals.
This novel contains some excellent writing with uniquely expressed wisdom about society and life in general. I could not give it a higher rating because its construction is rather laborious and convoluted, making the reader work too hard to unearth the treasures. [3.5 stars]