Publication Date: July 14, 2015 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Genre: Historical Fiction
A debut novel chronicling the life and loves of a headstrong, earthy, and magnetic heroine
Eastern Oklahoma, 1928. Eighteen-year-old Maud Nail lives with her rogue father and sensitive brother on one of the allotments parceled out by the U.S. Government to the Cherokees when their land was confiscated for Oklahoma's statehood. Maud's days are filled with hard work and simple pleasures, but often marked by violence and tragedy, a fact that she accepts with determined practicality. Her prospects for a better life are slim, but when a newcomer with good looks and books rides down her section line, she takes notice. Soon she finds herself facing a series of high-stakes decisions that will determine her future and those of her loved ones.
Maud's Line is accessible, sensuous, and vivid. It will sit on the bookshelf alongside novels by Jim Harrison, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and other beloved chroniclers of the American West and its people.
I was happy to read Maud's Line for a few reasons. I grew up in Oklahoma and my family has been there since before statehood so I was curious to read about life in rural Oklahoma in the 1920's. I found the descriptions of the land, weather, people and the way of life to be compelling and they seem to match stories I have heard from family members.
I loved that Maud was an avid reader and could relate to her desire to get away from the home place and experience the bigger world outside of her family's land allotment. I really enjoyed the casual but dependable way her family moved in and out of each others homes and lives. They saw each other often and took care of each other, but they were still pretty well able to do their own thing without too much comment. I really enjoyed this aspect of the novel.
Maud's relationship with men, however, was much more troubling. She falls hard for a travelling peddler named Booker who is also a white man. But Billy, is part of the Cherokee nation like Maud, local and has serious ideas about what their relationship should be. Maud's choice would have been easy if events hadn't occurred that forced her to make choices that could be detrimental to her relationship with Booker. I did like that despite the fact that her father brings much of the troubles on the family, Maud doesn't hesitate to take whatever action she feels is necessary to keep her family safe.
I thought that Verble did a good job of showing the difficulty and complexity of the Native Americans living on their allotments and the reality of politics and local law enforcement. She brings out the hard choices Maud is forced to make and how differently she and Booker view things. I don't know that Maud made all the right decisions, but she did the best she could in a difficult situation.
The thing that bothered me the most was that despite the effort her family put into keeping something safe for her and the strong and wise advice they gave her regarding it, she immediately went out and did exactly what they warned her against. I'm not sure she was wrong, but it just didn't sit well with me.
However, I did enjoy Maud's Line very much and would happily recommend it - especially to anyone interested in Oklahoma History.
PRAISE FOR MAUD'S LINE"Maud is refreshingly open and honest about her own sexuality though conscious of her place as a woman in a sexist society, always careful not to insult the intelligence or manhood of her male friends and relations. Verble writes in a simple style that matches the hardscrabble setting and plainspoken characters. Verble, herself a member of the Cherokee Nation, tells a compelling story peopled with flawed yet sympathetic characters, sharing insights into Cherokee society on the parcels of land allotted to them after the Trail of Tears." -Kirkus
"Writing as though Daniel Woodrell nods over one shoulder and the spirit of Willa Cather over the other, Margaret Verble gives us Maud, a gun-toting, book-loving, dream-chasing young woman whose often agonizing dilemmas can only be countered by sheer strength of heart." - Malcolm Brooks, author of Painted Horses
"I want to live with Maud in a little farm in a little valley under the shadow of a mountain wall. Maud's Line is an absolutely wonderful novel and Margaret Verble can drop you from great heights and still easily pick you up. I will read anything she writes, with enthusiasm." -Jim Harrison, author of Dalva, Legends of the Fall, and The Big Seven
"Margaret Verble gives us a gorgeous window onto the Cherokee world in Oklahoma, 1927. Verble's voice is utterly authentic, tender and funny, vivid and smart, and she creates a living community - the Nail family, Maud herself, her father, Mustard, and brother, Lovely, and the brothers Blue and Early, the quiet, tender-mouthed mare Leaf, and the big landscape of the bottoms - the land given to the Cherokees after the Trail of Tears. Beyond the allotments, it opens up into the wild, which is more or less what Verble does with this narrative. A wonderful debut novel." - Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta
MARGARET VERBLE, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, has set her novel on her family's allotment land. She currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky, and Old Windsor, England.
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