Friday, January 10, 2014

Life Is Short But Wide

Life Is Short But Wide
J. California Cooper
3.5 / 5

Published 2009

First Sentences
"My name is Mrs. Hattie B. Brown, and I am ninety-one years old.  My mother, Mrs. Mary Lee Brown, is 105 years old and she has almost all her own teeth.  She eats very well, and is still living; so I'm probably going to have a long life."
Publisher's Description:
Wideland, Oklahoma, is home to ordinary Americans struggling to raise families and fulfill their dreams. In the early twentieth century, Irene and Val fall in love. While carving out a home for themselves, they also allow neighbors Bertha and Joseph to live on their land. The next generation brings two girls for Irene and Val, and a daughter for Bertha and Joseph. As the families cope with the hardships that come with changing times and fortunes, and people are born and pass away, the characters learn the importance of living one's life boldly and squeezing out every possible moment of joy.

Dear Reader,

This was an another audiobook find that I stumbled across on my local library's Overdrive site.  I don't know that I would have come across it otherwise, but I am glad I did - and that I gave it a fair shake, because it almost immediately turned me off with religious talk: I thought it might not be my kind of book.  But, ultimately, the God talk was pretty limited, and did all work with the theme and feel of the book, so I am glad I stuck with it.  Cooper is a prize-winning poet, and you can hear that in her writing.

I actually finished this book in mid-December, but it's taken me a long time to write about it.  I am not sure why.  It was a great story - an epic look at three generations of a family (and their loved ones, who are simply extended family to them) which settled in the midwest around the turn of the century.  Irene and Val begin the family, purchasing a house and some land and settling down in Wideland, even though Val travels often for his cowherding work.  The book leads you through this family's joys, triumphs, and of course tragedies.  It's fascinating to watch promising young people grow up, some failing in life and in love.  Ultimately, those with good hearts and morals really do succeed, even though they bear their share of misfortune.  The title of the book is very approrpriate; there are many short lives in the story, but their histories are very far-reaching.  As in real life, their stories overlap and interweave and become something entirely whole, outside of the individual.  It was a great listen, and I might check out more of Cooper's writing in the future.

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