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American Book Award-winning author Askew (creative writing, Univ. of Oklahoma; Fire in Beulah) mixes fiction with legend and history in this extraordinary novel of Oklahoma during the Great Depression, Volume 1 of the "Oklahoma Stories and Storytellers" series. Harmonica-playing Harlan Singer marries 14-year-old Sharon Thompson, and they immediately take to riding the rails. Unlike many Okies, however, they never go to California but instead keep making figure eights, always returning to their center point, Oklahoma. The charismatic Harlan—a brilliant musician and storyteller with friends among the hobos, Cherokees, and African Americans—has taken Sharon along on his own mysterious quest. Sometimes they steal, but only needed food and clothing, and they always try to repay their debts. Throughout, Askew interweaves three narrative strands: Sharon's voice; Harlan's poetry, or "deepsong"; and "folksay," the legends and history surrounding these two. The result is a vivid portrait of an age and a place, of desperate poverty, near starvation, red dust, and strong biblical faith. Regional literature at its finest; highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
—Mary Margaret Benson