July 2008 Indie Next List
“In Paulette Jiles' novel, set in Texas during the Great Depression, a family faces the chaos of dust storms and the debilitating experience of poverty, as Jiles tells a compelling story of characters balancing survival and taking major risks. This is a very good work of historical fiction.”
— Dianne Patrick, Snowbound Books, Marquette, MI
Oil is king of East Texas during the darkest years of the Great Depression. The Stoddard girls—responsible Mayme, whip-smart tomboy Jeanine, and bookish Bea—know no life but an itinerant one, trailing their father from town to town as he searches for work on the pipelines and derricks; that is, when he's not spending his meager earnings at gambling joints, race tracks, and dance halls. And in every small town in which the windblown family settles, mother Elizabeth does her level best to make each sparse, temporary house they inhabit a home.
But the fall of 1937 ushers in a year of devastating drought and dust storms, and the family's fortunes sink further than they ever anticipated when a questionable "accident" leaves Elizabeth and her girls alone to confront the cruelest hardships of these hardest of times. With no choice left to them, they return to the abandoned family farm.
It is Jeanine, proud and stubborn, who single-mindedly devotes herself to rebuilding the farm and their lives. But hard work and good intentions won't make ends meet or pay the back taxes they owe on their land. In desperation, the Stoddard women place their last hopes for salvation in a wildcat oil well that eats up what little they have left . . . and on the back of late patriarch Jack's one true legacy, a dangerous racehorse named Smoky Joe. And Jeanine, the fatherless "daddy's girl," must decide if she will gamble it all . . . on love.
“Jiles’s follow-up to her highly praised debut, Enemy Women, [is] a deeply satisfying novel with wide appeal.”
-Library Journal (starred review)
“Jiles’s eloquent, engaging novel celebrates four strong women toughing out the Great Depression . . . [a] gritty saga.”
“[A] stirring story . . . of self and home in language as spare and stark as the Texas landscape.”