Stormy Weather

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Overview

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. But in a year of devastating drought and dust storms, the family's fortunes sink further than they ever anticipated when a questionable "accident" leaves the girls and their mother, Elizabeth, alone to confront the cruelest ...

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Overview

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. But in a year of devastating drought and dust storms, the family's fortunes sink further than they ever anticipated when a questionable "accident" leaves the girls and their mother, Elizabeth, alone to confront the cruelest hardships of these hardest of times.

Returning to their previously abandoned family farm, the resilient Stoddard women must now 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.

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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.
Library Journal

Like the oil desperately needed during the Great Depression, Stormy Weatheris a slow gathering of hope underneath the surface. The Stoddard women's story coalesces after the death of the sole male in the family, who has left them little besides a wild racehorse named Smoky Joe, a tenuous belief in wildcat oil wells, and the ability to fend for themselves in the dustbowl of East Texas. Daughter Jeanine is the true heroine of the tale, but her mother and sisters provide a strong portrait of the diverse women of the era. Well read by Colleen Delany, the novel straddles romance and history and is recommended for audiences who prefer those genres.
—Joyce Kessel

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
Booklist
“[A] stirring story . . . of self and home in language as spare and stark as the Texas landscape.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060537326
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/8/2007
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Paulette Jiles

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.

Biography

Poet, memoirist, and novelist Paulette Jiles was born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks and moved to Canada in 1969 after graduating with a degree in Romance languages from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. She spent eight years as a journalist in Canada, before turning to writing poetry. In 1984, she won the Governor General's Award (Canada's highest literary honor) for Celestial Navigation, a collection of poems lauded by the Toronto Star as "...fiercely interior and ironic, with images that can mow the reader down."

In 1992, Jiles published Cousins, a beguiling memoir that interweaves adventure and romance into a search for her family roots. Ten years later, she made her fiction debut with Enemy Women (2002), the survival story of an 18-year-old woman caged with the criminally insane in a St. Louis prison during the Civil War. Janet Maslin raved in The New York Times, "This is a book with backbone, written with tough, haunting eloquence by an author determined to capture the immediacy of he heroine's wartime odyssey." The book won the Willa Literary Award for Historical Fiction (U.S.) and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize (Canada).

In her second novel, 2007's Stormy Weather, Jiles mined another rich trove of American history. Set in Texas oil country during the Great Depression, the story traces the lives of four women, a widow and her three daughters, as they struggle to hold farm and family together in a hardscrabble world of dust storms, despair, and deprivation. In its review, The Washington Post praised the author's lyrical prose, citing descriptions that "crackle with excitement." Stormy Weather became the fourth selection in the Barnes & Noble Recommends program.

A dual citizen of the United States and Canada, Jiles currently lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Jiles:

"When I lived in Nelson, British Columbia, there were three or four of us women who were struggling writers; we were very poor and we had a great deal of fun. We shared writing and money and wine. Woody (Caroline Woodward) had a great, huge Volkswagen bus -- green -- named Greena Garbo. When any of us managed to publish something there were celebrations. It was a wonderful time. They always managed to show up at my place just when I'd baked bread. One time Meagan and Joanie arrived to share with me a horrible dinner they had made of cracked wheat and onions -- we were actually all short of food. I had just made lasagna -- and they ate all of my lasagna and left me with that vile dish of groats and onions. And then we all got married and went in different directions."

"I have a small ranch that keeps me busy -- two horses, a donkey, a cat, a dog, fences, a pasture -- I and spend lots of time preventing erosion, clearing cedar, etc."

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    1. Hometown:
      Southwest Texas
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Romance Languages, University of Missouri

First Chapter

Stormy Weather LP

Chapter One

When her father was young, he was known to be a hand with horses. They said he could get any wage he asked for, that he could take on any job of freighting even in the fall when the rains were heavy and the oil field pipe had to be hauled over unpaved roads, when the mud was the color of solder and cased the wheel spokes. The reins were telegraph lines through which he spoke to his horses in a silent code, and it seemed to Jeanine that her father's battered hands held great powers in charge. He could drive through clouds or floods. During the early oil strikes in Central Texas he was once paid $1,250 to drive a sixteen-mule team hauling a massive oil field boiler from McAllister, Oklahoma, to Cisco, Texas. He got it across the Red River Bridge and through the bogged roads of North Texas without losing a mule or a spoke or a bolt.

Jeanine sat beside him on the wagon seat and watched the horses plunge along. They were buoyant, as if they were filled with helium. This particular morning his hands shook when he rolled a cigarette because the night before he had been drinking the brutal intoxicating mixtures that were sold because the Volstead Act was still in effect that year, 1924. After an hour they came to the oil field and her father told her to stay in the crisscross shadow of the derrick until he got his deal done because he and the foreman were probably going to sit around and talk and cuss for a while. You can't step past those shadows, there. Don't go playing around the horses' feet. Here, read this comic book. She sat and read from panel to panel as Texas Slim shot his way through the saloon doors on hishorse Loco. She couldn't keep her mind on it and so she walked the shadows of the derrick and pretended they were dark roads leading her away to distant countries like Mars and Boston and Oklahoma.

Her father talked with the driller about pipe to be hauled and how much a load and how many loads. The driller needed casing pipe, and casing pipe weighed more than drill stem so her father was trying to get paid by weight as well as by the load. After they had agreed and shook hands, he stood up carefully to balance his enormous beating head on his shoulders and called out, "Jeanine, come on, we've got to go."

Jeanine came to stand against her father's knees. All the machinery was still. The oil had been found and was being held below their feet, dark and explosive, until the crew would let it up through the casing pipe.

She said, "Let me drive the horses." Jeanine had a low voice and it made her sound like an immature blond dwarf.

Her father patted her heavily on top of her head. "You're too little to drive."

"But I want to play Ben-Hur."

He smiled. "You can't be Ben-Hur, honey, you're a girl."

The week before they had gone to see the movie star Raymond Navarro playing Ben-Hur in a toga, in screenland black and white, ripping around the arena at a suicidal speed, lashing a whip.

"Yeah, but he was wearing a dress, and I'm the one that's got the pants on."

Her father laughed and held his head. Jeanine was so relieved that her own laughter had a frantic sound and tears came to her eyes. The driller thought it was funny as well and he repeated it to the crew several times over and even after a week the driller could be heard to say Don't mess with me, boys, I'm the one that's got the pants on.

They started home. They lived in half of a rent house in Ranger, where they had moved as soon as there was word of an oil strike. Before that they seemed to have lived on the old Tolliver farm, but Jeanine was too young to remember it. Her father's strong hands were scarred, they had been knocked around by everything, by engine cranks and coffin hoists and the wagon jack. His cloth cap barely shaded his bloodshot eyes. All round them the horizon shifted from one red stone layer to another and down these slopes spilled live oak and Spanish oak and mesquite, wild grape and persimmon. Alongside the road were things people threw out of cars and wagons. A baby doll head lay under a dense blackbrush and seemed to watch as the hooves of the team went past. There were tin cans and mottled rags and lard pails and tiny squares of broken safety glass.

He reached under the seat and took out his bottle.

"If I have a drink now she'll never know by the time we get home." He took a quick drink and then handed the bottle to her. "Hide that for me."

Jeanine kneeled down and found the feed bags under the seat and stuffed the bottle in one of them and sat back on the seat again. She leaned against him. During the tormented shouting of the night before, Jeanine and her sister knew these were noises of pain. Their parents needed comfort.

"I love you," she said.

"You'll be mad at me too someday, Jenny," he said. "Before the world is done with me."

"But how come you threw the album out the front door?"

"Because the sewing machine was too heavy."

The photographs of herself and her sister Mayme tumbled down the steps like playing cards, like the doll head, discarded. Her mother and father's wedding portrait spun into the dirt. Jeanine and her sister Mayme picked them all up and carefully pasted them back into the album. Before long her mother and father would kiss each other. After that her father would be paid and they would buy a case of Lithiated Lemon soda and a radio and a race-horse.

Stormy Weather LP. Copyright © by Paulette Jiles. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion
1. Stormy Weather, like Jiles's previous novel, Enemy Women, makes use of historical facts. Did you know anything about the setting (the Dust Bowl, the Texas oil industry of the 1930s, quarter horse match races) before you started reading the novel? How well do you think the author captures the time period?
2. Jiles was a poet before she was a novelist. Do you see any evidence of this in her prose style? Was there a moment in the novel when you found yourself caught off-guard by a certain sentence structure, or came upon a word choice or phrase that you found yourself thinking about later?
3. Although they are sisters, Mayme, Jeanine, and Bea have very different personalities. What contributed to each girl's character? Does Bea's dreaminess have anything to do with her being the youngest? What elements of Mayme's character might be attributed to her position as the eldest?
4. Which of the four women was your favorite? Which one do you think you are most like, and why?
5. It's easy to dismiss Jack Stoddard as an irresponsible, unlikable man. Does anything redeem him? Can you sympathize with Jeanine's attachment to him? Did your perception of him change over the course of the novel?
6. Jeanine has a complex relationship with another "character" in the book, the racehorse Smoky Joe. She needs to sell him in order to pay the back taxes, but she has a strong affection for him, perhaps because he was the one thing left by her father. Do you think Ross Everett realizes this when he offers her part ownership of the horse?
7. The scenes between Jeanine and Ross are sexy, although physically almost nothing happens between them. How does Jiles create this romantic tension with such spare details?
8. What did you think of Milton Brown? How did he compare to Ross Everett? Did Jeanine take Milton seriously as a suitor? What do you think she found appealing about him?
9. Why is Jeanine initially reluctant to accept Ross's marriage proposal? Does her ultimate acceptance represent growth on her part?

Further Reading: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 139 )
Rating Distribution

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(70)

4 Star

(30)

3 Star

(21)

2 Star

(11)

1 Star

(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 139 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2013

    !

    Of course harriet klausner has to come along with her cliff note book report and ruin this book. Another book sale lost bn. Please get rid of this poster, delete her plot spoilers and ban her from posting. She ruins every book she supposedly reviews!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2008

    Little Women in a different setting?

    I saw a lot of similarity between the characters--with enough differences to not be obvious, But Mayme--Amy? Jeanine--Jo? Bea--Beth. It was interesting reading but, like other reviews I read, it was easy to put down, and come back to later. Not bad, but not absorbing.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2011

    Fascinating

    This was a great story that kept me engrossed from beginning to end. The characters are deep and fully realized and stick with you. Reminiscent of Little Women. An excellent book I would highly recommend.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 27, 2011

    Great Book

    This book was quite the poetic read. The protagonist wasnt the typical strong female character but she had a lot of inner strength that helped keep her family going. She was very relatable and you cared about what happened to her, her mother, and her siblings.

    The author did a great job of showing how childhood scars can haunt you throughout life and that you must inevitabley learn to trust again in order to find happiness.

    Poetic language throughout book. The setting was really brought to life. Sometimes I wished there was more dialogue and less setting but in the end it really worked to make a poignant read.

    Recommend.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Couldn't Put It Down!

    Truly a joy to read. Jiles writes about people you care about and stories about which you wish to know more. I learned so much about the time and the place through her fantastic descriptions and emotive writing. A real page-turner.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2009

    Stormy Weather--historical gem

    I found Stormy Weather to be an engrossing speculation of how life was lived by the families of those men who chased the emerging oil-fields across Texas during the time of the dust bowl. Not since Grapes of Wrath have I felt so caught up in the details of life during that period. I felt enlightened and entertained all in one, so much so that I promptly went out and read her previous book about the civil war.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    If you like formulaic books, you probably won't like this novel. This is the second of Paulette Jiles' books that I have read and am anxiously awaiting the next one. She reserches her books so well that it seems she personally lived the story.

    The characters in Stormy Weather feel like your relatives. That is how well developed they are. Once you have read this book, you will know what it was like to live through the Depression. I highly recommend this wonderful book.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2007

    A Little Disappointing, Nothing Special

    I found this book to be pretty disappointing. Even though the setting and premise of the book ''depression era Texas'' is interesting and has potential, the plot of the book is weak and even cliche. The first few chapters take place over 5-10 years a very hurried and at times confusing description of events. The plot is pretty traditional- a young woman faces difficulties with determination, while being pursued by two totally opposite and unlikely men whom she has always known, only to get married and achieve success and relative happiness in the end. The characters themselves were also weak for the most part- I found the romantic relationships to be melodramatic and quite unbelievable and unrealistic, in addition to the dialog that is exchanged. I couldn't imagine any of the characters interacting and in this way I felt that the story was overall pretty disappointing. I would much rather read something that makes me think more and presents me with intriguing content. This IS good for a light read though.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2007

    Surviving It All

    Stormy Weather Paulette Jiles Author Jiles has written about my days, the Thirties, and my part of Texas. As if looking over my shoulder, she has traced my paths of childhood, resurrecting little forgotten details once so familiar to me of that era. Her research is very thorough. But that is little compared to her astounding metaphors and similes. ¿. . . waistlines down around their hips, legs shining and pale in silk stockings, they moved forward into the 1920s that came like a light summer wind all over Texas, a decade that would have a hundred years in it and would never end.¿ Just one of many examples that pleases and delights the reader, illustrating Jiles natural flair for the poetic. Her characters are real, breathing people, determined to survive the now with hearts turned toward better days.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2007

    Home on the range with horses and women

    Enjoying this book was like a time travel experience. I felt that I was in the 1930's dust bowl of Texas with our 4 brave, courageous, and resourceful women. I loved the clothes and furnishings being made from any cloth that was available anywhere. The working on the land and hot dusty days actually sent me into the refrigerator for a cold bottle of water as I read. The horse racing was something different than what most of us have heard about in the 'classic' race tracks of today. I really felt like I was part of this family, and enjoyed the personalities, talents for survival, industry, and pure fun with what was available for each woman's interests. The 'historical fiction' was at it's best done by Jiles. Throw in a great love story and this book is a wonderful read for book groups. One of the best books of this kind that I have read in a very long time!!!!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    StormyAsh TO ALL {To AutumnShade}

    She leaped onto a rock within the camp. "RainClan," she yowled. "Since I am Deputy, i will take temorary LeaderShip, she meowed before continuing, "Before EmberStar went missing," she meowed, her voice just mearly a whisper. "He was going to move camps. From now on camp is moved to: 'Rainy Days' result three. Everyone who needs a ceremony of any kind post what ceremony you need in result two," she yowled a bit louder. "Everyone move there now. Everyone MUST advertise EVERYDAY! We need to make this clan active and healthy as it once was! Everyone who has not yet posted a bio needs to do so at: 'Bios of Rain' result one. Results 2-3 are for updates," she meowed and leaped down, heading to the new camp. {Yeah, okay, AutumnShade. Honest, everyday I look at the 'Erin Hunter' books and there is NEVER a post for RainClan. Unless I post an ad for the clan, theres none there.}

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2011

    Wonderful sense of time and place, recommended!

    Great characters, interesting events, a real feel for the rugged Texas life during the era late in the Depression and just prior to WWII. Ms. Jiles writing reminded me of Annie Proulx. One of those books that you just can't put down and then are sorry that you read it so quickly!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2011

    stormy weather

    great read

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Worth your time to pick up - I couldn't put it down

    I'm not sure why this book drew me in, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well written and developed charachters, the era in itself is interesting and the historical recall on the events were realistic. In short - I don't think you will be disappointed. It's won't keep you on the edge of your seat, but it is worth picking up.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2010

    Excellent story and characters

    I admint that I was worried, but this story and its characters are amazing. Interesting and real characters with real hardships and successes make this book a best choice for reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2009

    A well-written treat

    Great story with interesting characters. Makes a great rainy day read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Stormy Weather

    You will root for the Stoddard women and be glad that you don't have to go through the Depression and the dust storms. Paulette's writing is true to that hard-knocks life of the time; You can almost see the weathered faces through the dust-covered window panes. Jeanine's character is great. You can see why her father called her "bullet." I wish she's real so I can give her a high-five.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2008

    Heartwarming story with a surprise ending

    I found this book to be a wonderful surprise. Within the first few pages I was hooked and could not put it down. Fantastic! The roller-coaster ride of Jeanine is gripping. I highly recommend Stormy Weather!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2008

    A Memorable Read

    Paulette Jiles is a gift to the American literary scene. And Stormy Weather is the confirmation of her talent. The Depression-era story set in the oilfields of Texas recalls Steinbeck while the landscape evokes Cormac McCarthy. We enter the lives of the people, the animals and the dust-bitten farms of the Texas plains through Jiles' careful prose and the soaring poetry of her settings.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2007

    GREAT WRITER TO ADD TO MY FAVORITES

    I really loved this book. I cared about all the characters and wanted them to finally get a break. I am going to read Enemy Women now and will look forward to this author's next book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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