Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Neither Friend Nor Foe
Other Press, 2010
Enidina Current and Mary Morrow live on neighboring farms in the flat, hard country of the upper Midwest during the early 1900s. This isolated, hardscrabble life comes easily to some, like Enidina, or Eddie. She never wanted more than this land and the animals she raises on it with her husband, Frank. But for the deeply religious Mary, farming is a lower class lifestyle and one she is not suited for. Still, Mary creates a clean and orderly home life for her stormy husband, Jack, and her sons, while she adapts to a lonely existence far different than she expected her life to be. Her only friends are the local preacher, who lets her play his piano, and Eddie. She is the first to befriend Eddie in a relationship that will prove as rugged as the ground they walk on. Despite having little in common, Eddie and Mary need one another for survival and companionship. But as the Great Depression threatens, the delicate balance of their reliance on one another goes awry, pitting neighbor against neighbor and exposing the dark secrets they hide from one another.
This quiet novel is a thoughtful examination of two women and their awkward relationship. Their close proximity to each other forces the friendship, but it’s a half-hearted, sometimes bitter, sometimes tolerant situation. Weather conditions, medical emergencies, and social events often necessitate one depending on the other for assistance, but they don’t like that much, either. And yet, as children come and go, economic conditions rise and fall, crops and animals suffer or die, these two women find something in each to cling to when all else disappoints them. As each character narrates her chapter, we see that despite all their differences, they come to depend upon and care for each other, as connected as two family members throughout all these years. This contemplative story will leave the reader thinking of the value of friends and family members who we don’t always appreciate but who stick with us through thick and thin, no matter what happens.
This is the author’s first novel.
Other titles you may enjoy:
What the Thunder Said by Janet Peery, 2007
In the Dust Bowl of 1930s Oklahoma, a family comes apart as sisters Mackie and Etta Spoon keep secrets from their father and from each other. Etta, the dangerously impulsive favorite of her father, longs for adventure someplace far away, and she doesn’t care how she gets there; watchful Mackie keeps house and obeys the letter of her father’s law, while harboring her own dreams. After the massive 1935 Black Sunday dust storm brings ruin to the family, the sisters’ conflict threatens further damage, so the two leave home to forge their own separate paths, each setting off in search of a new life.
Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles, 2007
Oil is king of East Texas during the darkest years of the Great Depression. The Stoddard family knows no life but an itinerant one, trailing the father from town to town as he searches for work on the pipelines and derricks. But the fall of 1937 ushers in a year of devastating drought and dust storms, and the family's fortunes sink further when a questionable "accident" leaves them alone to confront the cruelest hardships of these hardest of times.
Last of the Husbandmen by Gene Logsdon, 2008
Two friends, one rich by local standards, and the other of more modest means, grow to manhood in a lifelong contest of will and character. In response to many of the same circumstances-war, love, moonshining, the Klan, weather, the economy-their different approaches and solutions to dealing with their situations put them at odds with each other, but we are left with a deeper understanding of the world that they have inherited and have chosen.