Like News of the World, it is successful in taking you to a distinctly different time and place, in this case Texas during the Depression years. You experience Texas along with the Stoddard family: a feckless father, an upstanding wife, and three daughters. The focus is on the tomboy Jeanine who accompanies her drunken, gambling father and notably drove him home passed out in the back seat when she was 10 years old. She learns from his connections to horses and racing. When he dies (in jail), the family returns to her mother’s long deserted family farm and Jeanine leads the way in surviving there with no money and few assets.
The interactions among the characters was pleasingly complex. Jeanine has two men in her life and her connections to each were not predictable and hardly even romantic. The sisters and their mother each had their strengths and their own interests were not always in accord. The elderly neighbors who helped them were not very important characters, yet they added an appealing richness to the overall picture.
I particularly liked this as an audiobook for the usual reasons but especially because it was a pleasure to hear the dialogue in “Texan.”
Texas oil field work, wildcat oil wells, horse racing, the drought, dust storms, life on a ranch, radio programs of the day all add to the story of Texas at the time. While that’s quite a list, the experiences don’t feel shoehorned in. Their life during the Depression was told so well that I began to feel infected by the worries the characters had.
Paulette Jiles, Stormy Weather, William Morrow, 2007, 342 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available at the UVa and public libraries and from Amazon.