Widows of Wichita County
When an oil well begins producing, the driller finally has the money to fulfill his/her ‘pipe dreams’. This book signaled a new contemporary direction for Thomas after starting in Texas historicals. It is a lush book about five women married to larger than life men.
An oil rig explosion burns the men beyond recognition. The wives are called to the hospital. They make an agreement to support each other anxiously awaiting news. Two women are friends. Crystal and Randi talk honestly in the first minutes. Then, without words, Randi understands Crystal needs a husband to love. Randi lacks staying power in marriage unlike Crystal.
When the only means to identify whose husband is the survivor is a plain wedding band, they exchange a subtle glance. Crystal stays by her husband’s bedside strengthening him.
She proves a major thorn in his greedy son’s side. As a trophy wife, she will be penniless and homeless without her husband. When this son tries to prove his father incompetent, it is only because of her husband’s vanity in refusing to wear glasses to read and sign checks that she was granted authority to sign the checks he dictated. Thus, this record of her writing checks keeps the business in her hands. Throughout the book her growth is stunning.
Helen, a businesswoman and town leader, has adult twin daughters. Only after she is widowed does she begin to see their many good points. She holds the younger widows together and guides them to become more self-sufficient women.
Ana, an upper class Italian, grew up around bullies and disrespect in her parent’s household. Her older husband married her for breeding stock. When that failed, he ignored her and her wishes.
As a wonderful second grade teacher, a career she loves, Meredith married the high school’s star jock who never graduated beyond his high school fame. She is not a Texas beauty. Her wardrobe appeals to her second graders. It does nothing to show off her assets to men. Even should the money for a better wardrobe come after she pays off her mountain of debts, it is iffy a man will look toward her inner strengths.
Thomas describes Randi as always getting the bigger piece of the cake. She is pure white trash complete with a plastic leather coat, super short skirts that display her long legged assets, and cowboy boots. She drinks too much. She wants to chase her dreams, not settle down.
Sometimes a serious book can make you smile thanks to well drawn characters and in the telling. The book was re-issued this summer.
Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent
For believers, this is a very reassuring and faith inspiring book. For non-believers, it gives the reader something to consider.
First of a four book series set in Sweetbranch, Alabama.
Hero Ben McKinzie is first a father. He steals his toddler from the drinking of his ex-wife and her stepfather’s abusive temper. Ben plans to go underground and leave his company business in his brother’s hands.
His first stop toward the underground is Sweetbranch, where he walks into Rose Finley’s Picture Perfect Beauty Salon. His little withdrawn daughter warms up to Rose as she snips off enough hair to subtly change the little girl’s appearance.
Rose dreads turning forty without ever having ‘good lovin’, her college education, or much excitement in her life. She speaks politely to the man passing through as she works. In good conscience Rose can’t allow this out of work man to take his daughter to the rowdy motel. She rents them rooms in her two story house where she lives with Uncle Bump, the local curmudgeon, her cooked food source, and last living relative.
Sutherland constructed three great reads from this start. Each offers a rich textured picture of the deep Southern roots I grew up with in that simpler time before the New South most of us know. These books are peopled with memorable characters you’ll grow to love and remember long after you finishing reading.
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Reviewed by Robyn Daniels