Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather

3.9 140
by Paulette Jiles

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From Paulette Jiles, the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of Enemy Women, comes a poignant and unforgettable story of hardship, sacrifice, and strength in a tragic time—and of a desperate dream born of an undying faith in the arrival of a better day

Oil is king of East Texas during the darkest years

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From Paulette Jiles, the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of Enemy Women, comes a poignant and unforgettable story of hardship, sacrifice, and strength in a tragic time—and of a desperate dream born of an undying faith in the arrival of a better day

Oil is king of East Texas during the darkest years of the Great Depression. The Stoddard girls—responsible Mayme, whip-smart tomboy Jeanine, and bookish Bea—know no life but an itinerant one, trailing their father from town to town as he searches for work on the pipelines and derricks; that is, when he's not spending his meager earnings at gambling joints, race tracks, and dance halls. And in every small town in which the windblown family settles, mother Elizabeth does her level best to make each sparse, temporary house they inhabit a home.

But the fall of 1937 ushers in a year of devastating drought and dust storms, and the family's fortunes sink further than they ever anticipated when a questionable "accident" leaves Elizabeth and her girls alone to confront the cruelest hardships of these hardest of times. With no choice left to them, they return to the abandoned family farm.

It is Jeanine, proud and stubborn, who single-mindedly devotes herself to rebuilding the farm and their lives. But hard work and good intentions won't make ends meet or pay the back taxes they owe on their land. In desperation, the Stoddard women place their last hopes for salvation in a wildcat oil well that eats up what little they have left . . . and on the back of late patriarch Jack's one true legacy, a dangerous racehorse named Smoky Joe. And Jeanine, the fatherless "daddy's girl," must decide if she will gamble it all . . . on love.

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Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
For more than 30 years, [Jiles has] been a successful poet, and her descriptions here of oil drilling, horse racing and terrifying dust storms crackle with excitement. She's also a master at creating the most charming romance -- a tender love affair between Jeanine and a young widower who must convince her that it's time to think about life outside her family.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Jiles's eloquent, engaging sophomore novel celebrates four strong women toughing out the Great Depression in the Texas dust bowl. As the book opens in 1927, Elizabeth Stoddard and husband Jack have three daughters: the pretty Mayme, the tomboyish Jeanine and the writerly Bea. Jeanine, resented for being daddy's favorite, soon becomes the novel's primary point of view. After the disgraced Jack dies in 1937, the four Stoddard women move back to the 150-acre homeplace on the Brazos River in Central Texas. Drought, hail and dust storms, land-tax debts and grinding poverty make life a struggle; radio shows, horse-racing, wildcat oil well speculation and stuttering news reporter friend Milton Brown provide diversions. Jeanine falls in love with local rancher Ross Everett; Mayme dates soldier Vernon. Visceral detail of the 1930s rancher life and the hardscrabble setting add authenticity, particularly in the characters' feel for horses. While forthright, some of the dialogue is less than believable (as when Ross compliments Jeanine on her "furious bloody purple" dress), but it serves the characters' greater-than-usual emotional bandwidth. Jiles winds this gritty saga up on the eve of WWII with a patchwork quilt's worth of hope. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
Now that her father has died, Jeanine Stoddard wonders how the family is going to survive. They do have one thing, however: the wayward racing stallion Smokey Joe. With a reading group guide. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Girl grows up in the Depression-era Texas dustbowl in an evocative but ultimately lackluster second novel from Jiles (Enemy Women, 2001). Jeanine is the middle daughter of Jack Stoddard, oil-field roustabout and dirt-track racehorse impresario. At age nine, she's gamely driving drunken, passed-out Dad home in his Tin Lizzie when 19-year-old Ross Everett intervenes, returning the two to Jeanine's mother Elizabeth and her sisters Mayme and Bea. Then comes the Crash, and the Stoddards move from town to town in search of oil jobs. Jack, his brain injured when he's exposed to "sour gas," descends into madness and dies in a jail cell. The women return to Elizabeth's dilapidated childhood farm. Elizabeth invests their dwindling funds in a wildcat oil well. Jeanine salvages the farm, doing all the housework and repairs, rescuing the peach orchard and clearing the land. As dust storms rage, the New Deal is born and war in Europe looms. Mayme meets a handsome soldier, and Bea scribbles pulpy stories in her journal. Jeanine finds two men mildly amusing: now-widowed rancher Ross, who buys her father's last stallion and gives her a stake in its winnings; and impish, stuttering newspaperman Milton, whose Runyonesque monologues consume way too much oxygen and page-space. Bea falls down a well, requiring expensive surgery that threatens to bankrupt the family again-unless that oil well isn't a dry hole after all. Period detail abounds, including authoritative arcana on every subject from oil and horses to windmills and roof patching. Jeanine's life, beset by one homely obstacle after another (nothing her capable hands can't handle of course), waxes anticlimactic as she approaches age 21 and resignsherself without much excitement to marriage. The characters other than Milton are utterly convincing in speech and manner, but they're adrift without a drama in which to act. If feisty Jeanine could find a vehicle with more horsepower, her return would be most welcome. Agent: Liz Darhansoff/Darhansoff, Verrill, Feldman Literary Agents
“[A] stirring story . . . of self and home in language as spare and stark as the Texas landscape.”

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

Paulette Jiles is a poet and the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the bestselling novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, and The Color of Lightning. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas.

Brief Biography

Southwest Texas
Place of Birth:
Salem, Missouri
B.A. in Romance Languages, University of Missouri

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