From Publishers Weekly
Jiles's eloquent, engaging sophomore novel celebrates four strong women toughing out the Great Depression in the Texas dust bowl. As the book opens in 1927, Elizabeth Stoddard and husband Jack have three daughters: the pretty Mayme, the tomboyish Jeanine and the writerly Bea. Jeanine, resented for being daddy's favorite, soon becomes the novel's primary point of view. After the disgraced Jack dies in 1937, the four Stoddard women move back to the 150-acre homeplace on the Brazos River in Central Texas. Drought, hail and dust storms, land-tax debts and grinding poverty make life a struggle; radio shows, horse-racing, wildcat oil well speculation and stuttering news reporter friend Milton Brown provide diversions. Jeanine falls in love with local rancher Ross Everett; Mayme dates soldier Vernon. Visceral detail of the 1930s rancher life and the hardscrabble setting add authenticity, particularly in the characters' feel for horses. While forthright, some of the dialogue is less than believable (as when Ross compliments Jeanine on her "furious bloody purple" dress), but it serves the characters' greater-than-usual emotional bandwidth. Jiles winds this gritty saga up on the eve of WWII with a patchwork quilt's worth of hope. (May)
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In her second novel, following the acclaimed Enemy Women
(2002), Jiles proves herself an exceptional writer. This stirring story of four women--Elizabeth Stoddard and her three daughters, Mayme, Jeanine, and Bea--struggling to survive during the Depression is set against a barren Texas landscape, still suffering the effects of a long drought and devastating dust storms. The Stoddards, having followed their charming patriarch, Jack, from one oil field to another, must now cope with his death from a gas leak. His love of gambling and liquor has left them destitute; they return to their long-abandoned family farm, where they face a hefty bill for back taxes. Jack's one legacy is an underfed racehorse named Smoky Joe. Jeanine, smart and practical, is forced to sell the horse to cover their debts but takes a percentage of his winnings; meanwhile, her mom invests in a wildcat oil well. The lack of money, though, never detracts from the Stoddards' dignity. Jiles conveys their sense of self and of home in language as spare and stark as the Texas landscape. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved