"All I do is pray the Lord will let me walk in the sun once more.” Stormy Weather lyrics
23 Bookers “krewe” paraded to Jean Alexander’s home on Fat Tuesday to celebrate the last day of eating rich fatty foods before the ritual fasting of Lenten season begins tomorrow. Sorry, I’m in Mardi Gras mode…actually, we braved the cold weather to celebrate this month’s selection with our debut discussion leader and bionic woman, Ann Ireland…who I’ve just learned chose to celebrate her wedding anniversary with Bookers. Happy 43rd and many more! Welcome new member, Judy Fly, and we hope she will be a regular fixture in Bookers. We continue to send good thoughts and lots of prayers to Sheri Green who has begun her new chemotherapy protocol. “Fist-pump” hugs from all of us to her!
Ms. Jiles used her poetic style to transport us back the darkest days of the Great Depression in Texas where oil was king in her historical family saga. Elizabeth Stoddard, the subtlety crafty matriarch, was blind-in-love with her handsome hubby, Jack, an oil-field roustabout, dirt-track racehorse promoter, and overall scalawag who hauled the family from one pipeline and derrick to another through devastating droughts and dust storms. Their “girls” were as different as night and day – Mayme was the stunning eldest daughter; Jeanine, the middle-child, tomboy, father’s favorite, and expert on everything from oil to horses, to windmills to roof-patching; and the youngest, bookish, Bea. It’s a coming of age story on all levels as each character must deal with the other’s flaws. Then, widowed and fatherless, the Stoddard ladies return to the mother’s dilapidated childhood farm where each one assumed a different role in their survival, their last hopes tied to a wildcat oil well and the late patriarch’s one true legacy, a dangerous racehorse named Smokey Joe. Throughout the novel, the family was often one pinto bean short of starvation but as we turned the pages the good and bad fortunes played out in sometimes heartbreaking scenes and one often asked, how much more can this family take.
In the end, father-favorite Jeanine painfully realizes what everyone else knew about her Dad, eventually finding a replacement in the arms of a man ten years her senior; Elizabeth’s gamble on the wildcat oil well paid off; Bea fulfills her dreams of writing pulpy stories for a western magazine; and Mayme is hopelessly in love with a future in her sights. The saga ends on the eve of World War II, September 1 1939…things are looking up for the Stoddard ladies…at last.
This novel traveled from one end of Texas to the other and it was never more prevalent than with the visual Ann created for us by mapping the different locations featured throughout the book. Thank you for showing us in detail how much of our State the Stoddards visited. By the looks of it they must have spent a great deal of time in the truck. There were those who loved the book relishing in the descriptive scenes and sharing “oil” and “dust” stories while others felt it was a book about Texas picked by Texans…of course there are no “natives” on the selection committee. I for one did enjoy the book having transplanted from Southern California to oil-crazy Midland when I was 5 and thought Ms. Jiles did a wonderful job of putting us in the scenes and detailing the wildcatter attitude throughout all the booms and busts that go hand in hand with this business…a gambler’s mentality coupled with the mystic and lure of discovering your own percentage of the black gold lying just beneath the surface of a flat, open, desert-like landscape which draws sane-business-minded individuals into its fold. In 1973 when the Arab embargo was announced lines formed at the gas stations and crude oil prices jumped from $4 a barrel to $25. 1979 when the Shah of Iran was overthrown prices peaked at $37 per barrel. Construction boomed, oil-field wages soared; a Rolls-Royce dealership sprung up between Midland and Odessa. Six years later oil fell to $10. Now, a strong demand for oil coupled with refined hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling leads the rebirth – once again – of the Permian Basin and by 2025 the area is predicted to be the 4th largest oil producer in the world with an output of 6 million barrels a day…BOOM!
Unfortunately, the editorial oversights popped off the pages which is curious at best. How do you misspell Hitler – Adolph instead of Adolf in the book; Ross commented that he shouldn’t have let his son watch Walt Disney’s Bambi (released in 1942); Jack spoke about movie superstar Ava Gardner – she was a teenager in 1937 – not a star until 1941. Jeanine singing “Your Cheating Heart” – not written until 1952. Archie comic strips not published until 1941. “That Old Black Magic” recorded in 1942; National Velvet in the movies in 1944; Clark Gable was married to Rita Langham not Rita Langhorn; but the cream of the crop was Ross and Jeanine driving home from Lubbock to Mineral Wells, taking 84 south to Abilene for dinner but arriving in Amarillo – even directionally challenged me knows that’s not right. I assumed because this was her second novel, she might have been under deadline to produce the book, but at it turns out her first novel received the same type criticism. Hard to justify from an editorial staff of a major publisher.
Many thanks to Katherine for bringing her “royal” collection from her mother noting the importance of the radio for those who lived during the depression was it brought news from all over the world providing a needed diversion to a stressful time – explaining why a woman (her mother) living in Seagoville, Texas was enthralled with the royal family. It’s quite an impressive collection!
On the business side:
Jean Alexander announced there is one spot open for the Austin trip as Virginia Gandy had to cancel. Please contact either Jean or Virginia if you want to join the other 45 ladies on the bus.
We have a full table of 8 (Katherine, her sister, Bonnie, Beverly, Gayle R., Linda Thompson, Kittie Minick, and Jean McSpadden.) for Bookers’ Books in Bloom table benefitting the library. I hope you all enjoy the event and we will want a full accounting of how it was.
Our Book Selection committee is working tirelessly on next year’s slate of books – please contact Pat, Katherine, or Melanie if you have a recommendation and they’ll check it out. I recommended a debut novel, My Cat Yugoslavia, - a love story set in two countries bringing together a young gay man, his mother, his very shy pet boa constrictor, and a talking cat…for those of you who read “literally” – this is a joke.
COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE: LIGHT READ
PINK: MODERATELY CHALLENGING
April 9: Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, Sarah Bird
A forgotten part of history detailing the hidden story of Cathy Williams, a former slave and the only woman to ever serve with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers.
Discussion Leader: Katherine Maxwell-McDonald
Home of Aulsine DeLoach – Backup – home of Patty Evans
May 14: Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
Set in the 1950’s in very rural North Carolina revolving around a young woman named Kya Clark – celebrating strength through tragedy and the resourcefulness of a child left to fend for herself in the swamp.
Discussion Leader: Jean Alexander
Bonnie Magee will again coordinate the “menu.”
Evening Wine & Cheese Meeting at the home of Melanie Prebis
Summer Read: The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett