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.
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).
Washington Post - Sandra Scofield
In the first line of A Strong West Wind, Caldwell asks the question "How do we become who we are?" ...... So here is this smart writer's answer to the question of identity: We come to ourselves through our choice of archetypes; we create our own story. We become what we have loved.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
Starred Review. [A] gorgeously written memoir about a life rooted in the Texas panhandle.
Starred Review.... the rhetoric is ...sufficient to leave the author floating too often in "poetic" abstraction. Nonetheless....her descriptive passages on college life in Austin in the '60s and '70s are wonderfully smart, moving and sympathetic--and she emerges as a memorable narrator.
I loved A Strong West Wind. [Caldwell] writes of her adventures in the sixties and seventies, and the quest for truth in California, with the authentic voice of the children who once made life hell for the 'Greatest Generation' and in the process turned out pretty great themselves.
Gail Caldwell's quiet, burnished memoir is a story of a life's affections--for her Texas parents, for the sere landscape of the panhandle, and for the road paved with book upon precious book that runs in both directions: far away and home again.
Gail Caldwell's book measures the sweep of one life against literature, history, legends of Texas, and the infallible truth of real feeling. This is a brave and moving work.
An elegant memoir. Gail Caldwell performs something like alchemy--taking the base metals of the Texas Panhandle badlands and turning them into pure gold.
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.
This witty and lovingly told memoir takes readers back to a time when small-town America was caught in the amber of the innocent postwar period--people helped their neighbors, went to church on Sunday, and kept barnyard animals in their backyards.
'Despite its unblinking stare at an excruciatingly painful subject, this is not a dour book. Autobiography of a Face is a book about image, about the tyranny of the image of a beautiful - or even pleasingly average - face. In the end, this tyranny is not so much overthrown as shrugged off.'
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