|Grandmother and Grandfather Nordyke on the|
Callahan County, Texas farm. The grey Chevy
is parked under the cottonwood in front.
Have you ever been reading a book and suddenly swept up by it, you land right in the middle of your own memories? That’s what happened when I read the first chapter of The Sound of Windmills by Jackie Woolley. She so described life on a hard scrabble Texas farm in the 1940s that all of a sudden I was back in the grey Chevy going to visit my grandparents on that on-the-edge farm where my dad grew up.
Here’s the review I wrote of this book for Story Circle Book Reviews. ( You can read my review at http://storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/windmills.shtml.
The Sound of Windmills
The trip to see Grandmother and Grandfather on their family farm on the semi-arid, windy, and lonely edge of west
delighted this little girl. As we drove up the dirt road in our old gray Chevrolet, I bounced all over my side of the back seat knowing I was going to have so much fun--gathering eggs, watching Grandmother milk the cow, walking down to Greenbriar Creek to gather dewberries, not to mention gobbling up the dewberry cobbler that came out of the woodstove just a little later. All of this played out to the background serenade of the whirring windmill. It was lots of fun for a city girl, but not so much for the couple who wrestled their living from these 287 acres for most of their adult lives. It remains a memory I treasure: not only for the fun but, now, for the character and good natures of these two strong people. Texas
All these memories and many more, came rushing back as I read Jackie Woolley's multigenerational saga of the
family. Taylor Myra and Joel Taylor live with their daughters, Marilyn and Rugene on a working farm, much like my grandparents', near the fictional town of . It's a hard life, and Woolley has an excellent eye and ear for it. I do not know exactly how much of this story is autobiographical; I suspect, quite a bit. Langor, Texas
The hardness of farm life is made even harder for the
family because as the story opens, Joel, a polio victim, is dying. Myra, who has done most of the farming and managing for years, expects to carry on with the help of her daughters and a trusted hand, but after Joel's death, their long-time landlord (they are sharecroppers) mercilessly tosses them out within days. Stricken, Taylor lands on her feet, and begins to form a new life for the three. This is the true beginning of the long story. Myra
The focus is primarily on the younger daughter Rugene, a strong spirit and sometimes lonely bookworm. She is determined to go the college and find a life for herself but not in Langor. At the same time she is determined that "I'll be back someday. I'm going back to buy the old farm.” Rugene manages to live much of her dream. Meanwhile, Marilyn and
also struggle with their own lives and as well as with holding the three of them together as a family. Myra
Because the novel spans several decades, it might have been confusing to a reader. What is happening to whom and when? Woolley handles this problem skillfully by working historic happenings into her story without being obtrusive. The book is no one-night read. It is a rather daunting 545 pages, and is full of twists and turns; however, the main story moves nicely along holding the reader's interest. By the time it comes to a close most of its issues are resolved and three strong women are at peace with themselves and with each other.