Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Life is moving along swimmingly for an extended farm family in Iowa in 1979, until the patriarch, Larry Cook, decides to sign his 1000 acres over to his three daughters. Rose and Ginny both live on the land with their husbands, but Caroline is an attorney who balks at the plan and thus loses her share. It's unclear, really, why Larry suddenly decides to make this bequest, but afterward he starts behaving very strangely. Is it dementia, regret, revenge, or just orneriness? He's certainly become somewhat unmoored and hasn't gotten any nicer. Ginny and her husband Ty were formerly the slavish favored pair, but Rose's spunk has diminished Ginny's fear and bolstered her self-confidence. As Ginny begins to stop looking the other way when their father insults them and behaves like a spoiled child, Ty becomes uneasy, because Ginny is his link to the land and their livelihood. Ginny's sudden about-face is also partly inspired by Jess, a draft dodger who has recently returned from Canada, thanks to Jimmy Carter's amnesty. There's a lot of inner turmoil bubbling to the surface for all of these characters but especially for Ginny, who has suppressed her hurt and anger for so long that she has repressed key events, to the point that she questions her sister's veracity. This uncertainty, along with some not-so-friendly sisterly competition, causes Ginny to become unhinged and do some pretty radical stuff. Despite the seriousness of all this, there is one very funny scene near the beginning where a neighbor's parrot shouts some commands, such as "sit" and "roll over," sending the dogs into an obedient frenzy. My favorite sentiment, though, is at the end, when Ginny observes that the burden of having to wait and see what's going to happen has been lifted, but this anticipation is what motivates us readers to keep flipping the pages.

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