In this exquisitely
rendered memoir set on the high plains of Texas, Pulitzer Prize winner Gail
Caldwell transforms into art what it is like to come of age in a particular time
and place. A Strong West Wind begins in the 1950s in the wilds of the
Texas Panhandle a place of both boredom and beauty, its flat horizons broken
only by oil derricks, grain elevators, and church steeples. Its story belongs to
a girl who grew up surrounded by dust storms and cattle ranches and summer
lightning, who took refuge from the vastness of the land and the ever-present
wind by retreating into books. What she found there, from renegade women to men
who lit out for the territory, turned out to offer a blueprint for her own
future. Caldwell would grow up to become a writer, but first she would have to
fall in love with a man who was every mother's nightmare, live through the
anguish and fire of the Vietnam years, and defy the father she adored, who had
served as a master sergeant in the Second World War.
A Strong West Wind is a memoir of culture and historyof fathers and daughters, of two world wars and the passionate rebellions of the sixties. But it is also about the mythology of place and the evolution of a sensibility: about how literature can shape and even anticipate a life.
Caldwell possesses the extraordinary ability to illuminate the desires, stories, and lives of ordinary people. Written with humanity, urgency, and beautiful restraint, A Strong West Wind is a magical and unforgettable book, destined to become an American classic.
the heart of so much open land, Amarillo, too,
sprawled in a sort of languid disregard, as though territorial hegemony
might make up for all that loneliness. Route 66 cut through
the center of town as a streamlined reminder of what was out
there to the west, and the trucks roared through town day and
night, slaves to hope and white-line fever, heading for California
or just somewhere else. The steak houses and truck stops at
either end of the city confirmed these great distances, offering
twenty-four-ounce T-bones along with the diesel fuel, and the
neon from the all-night signs must have looked from the sky like
paths of lightbright flashes of pink and green and white as the
town grew sparser, flanked on the highway to the east and west
alike by miles of open country.
Downtown in the 1950s was only a few blocks long, and the ...
Inspired by Thomas Clayton Wolfe's first novel Look Homeward, Angel (1929) Caldwell left her childhood home to find her destiny, having had an inkling of what that might be during a summer internship with the local newspaper, where she discovered "a work world where eccentrics reigned." In the context of her childhood growing up in the Texas Bible Belt it is apt that she's taken the title of her book from Exodus 1:19: And the Lord changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (496 words).
Gail Caldwell is the
chief book critic for The Boston Globe, where she has been a staff writer and
critic since 1985. In 2001, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished
Criticism. She is also an avid rower. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"I don't feel that novels change the world. I think novels change people's hearts. People's hearts, one at a time, change the world." - Gail Caldwell.
Read an in-depth interview with Gail Caldwell at BookBrowse.
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