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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
On a cattle ranch in the southeast corner of Arizona, without electricity or indoor plumbing, a little girl grew up and went on to become the most powerful woman in America. Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female on the Court and the swing vote in many major cases, describes her childhood in this delightful memoir.
Lazy B reflects Sandra's perspective as the oldest of three siblings, but it also includes the recollections of her brother Alan -- such as the summer when, at age 13, he broke eight horses without advice or help. These were happy children in a close and loving family, but they do not glamorize what it was like to live on a ranch, even a large and generally prosperous one. Life was strenuous, the margin of success was very narrow, and drought, hardship, and death were no strangers.
In brief chapters we witness the family scene, which included the cowboys who worked on the ranch for decades and the vividly remembered horses and other animals, including Bob the bobcat and Sylvester the pet hawk. The year's events, culminating in the roundup, branding, and sale of calves, come to life, as do simple pleasures like swimming in the water tank or a trip to the nearest town. Until young Sandra took part in the roundup, it had been an all-male event. She gained acceptance from the cowboys by doing her job well, a useful prelude to her future role as a gender groundbreaker.
Following some historical background, most of Lazy B is set in the 1930s and '40s. Gradually, the ranch and its equipment were modernized, and Alan took over the operation as his father aged. The last chapters bring the story forward, with a very funny vignette about Sandra's future husband's first visit to the ranch, and their wedding in the barn; but there is little mention of her later life.
The book calls to mind another fine memoir, The Road from Coorain, Jill Ker Conway's sadder and bleaker account of growing up on a sheep farm in Australia. Both young women rose to prominence in America, but for Conway there is a sense of escape, while O'Connor remains deeply nostalgic for the Lazy B ranch, which Alan had to sell when none of the succeeding generation wanted to carry on the hard life of a rancher.
The author's tone is simple and matter-of-fact, except for some quite lyrical passages about the land and the rain. Lazy B, well illustrated with family photographs, should appeal to a wide range of readers. (Stephanie Martin)
Stephanie Martin lives in Newton Centre, Massachusetts.