Friday, May 6, 2011

Stormy Weather, Paulette Jiles

This book is lilting yet tough; it's a modern girl's Scarlett O'Hara battling the 1930s Dust Bowl for the sake of her two sisters and widowed mother. Through bad investments, dire poverty, and loneliness, this book reminds us that bad economies and personal loss can be overcome with hard work and family togetherness.

I won't say that this is the most cleverly constructed novel; it's heartfelt and poetic at times, but the metaphors (Smoky Joe the racehorse) felt a tad weak. I don't think novels like this need to be anything more than good stories, though. The middle sibling, Jeanine, is a determined, lonely young woman trying to make best for her family. The characterizations may feel quite simple at first, but this novel develops its characters through their struggles slowly, like aging and weathering a person... through a violent storm. Yah, that might be the most cliche comment I've ever made in a review. Jiles does this well, though.

I thoroughly enjoyed that Jiles included information about the social welfare organizations that attempted to serve the farm families afflicted by drought during the Depression. I also enjoyed reading the subtle exploration of changing gender-roles during this era. The time period didn't make for a lot of comments such as "women wouldn't have been doing jobs like that;" Jeanine's farming, roofing, and race horse antics wouldn't have been questioned much amidst such sad circumstances as the Depression. Her strength rises up and rarely falters; she's an excellent heroine. A drama queen like Scarlett should take lessons!

There were a handful of chapters and segments in this novel that came from the other characters' perspectives, too. I liked that the novel was fleshed out from all the Stoddard's viewpoints, and later on even Everett's and the neighbors! You see it all coming together as a family struggle that way.

I highly recommend this novel. It's a simple, genuine story of determination and endurance; one that should probably speak to many people during our own economic hardships.

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