Monday, January 15, 2018

STORMY WEATHER by Paulette Jiles

Jeanine Stoddard is a daddy’s girl, but her father has a drinking problem, then a gambling problem, and finally a statutory rape problem.  He moves his family all over Texas, chasing work in the oil business during the Depression.  Eventually, Jeanine, her three sisters, and their mother move back to the old Tolliver farm, which has been in her family for generations.  However, the farm is in disrepair and has no electricity or indoor plumbing.  Jeanine takes it upon herself to make the place livable, while her older sister gets a job to bring in some much needed cash.  Meanwhile, their mother Elizabeth recklessly invests their meager savings in an oil venture, and at the same time the youngest daughter Bea suffers a terrible accident, requiring very expensive surgery.  This may sound like your typical hard luck story, but it really isn’t.  By the time she is 21, Jeanine finds herself with two suitors who couldn’t be more different.  Milton Brown is a stuttering journalist who aspires to a radio career.  His side of any conversation is hysterical, and I’m not talking about the stuttering.  He has an overblown speaking style that injects some lightheartedness into a world of poverty and struggle.  The other man in her life is Ross Everett, a rancher raising his son alone after his wife died from complications brought on by the last dust storm.  Jeanine is no shrinking violet and handles both men with aplomb.  She is a compelling character, and her life doesn’t lack for adventures—tractor accidents, oil wells, horse races, and yes, another terrifying dust storm.  I admire her and all the women in her family who are plucky and ever optimistic, despite the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves.

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