Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Review: Maud's Line

Maud’s Line
by Margaret Verble

Why did you choose this book? the story sounded interesting
When did you read this book? March 2015
Who should read this book? readers of historical fiction with an interest in Native studies
Source: Library Thing Early Reviewers
Here is a synopsis of Maud’s Line from Goodreads

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.

My Review

I received a copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers earlier this year, but for many reasons, put off reading it. Once I found the time I was hesitant because the reviews are all over the place and I sensed I would be disappointed. This was not the case. I very much enjoyed the story!

This is historical fiction set in the 1920s in Oklahoma. Maud is of Native American ancestry and part of an extended family struggling to make ends meet. One day a peddler comes to town and she begins to dream of a better life. Reading about the peddler-man reminded me of the musical, Oklahoma! I’d always enjoyed the character, but never really realized the utility of visits by a peddler to people who lived in isolated areas far from retail establishments.

Something else I enjoyed learning about were the allotments distributed to the relocated Cherokee nation. Of course I’d heard of the Trail of Tears and the relocation to reservations, but I’d never given much thought beyond that and never realized that the land was parcelled out among the families. The fact that Maud didn’t quite understand how her family parcels were distributed and who was related to who also resonated with me as a genealogist. I could relate to hearing these names and knowing they were related somehow, but not quite understanding the relationships.

Maud was a mixed bag for me. She was strong and resilient, but she also made some poor choices and her willingness to use people to meet her needs was annoying. She got herself into a situation in which there could be no happy resolution for everyone involved, although I have to credit her with at least attempting to set things right. I felt really bad for her ‘victim’, though.

I think this would be a good book club pick, with plenty to discuss including how far family loyalty should go, and what alternatives Maud might have pursued at certain points in the story. If you enjoy historical fiction, give this one a try!

To learn more about the Cherokee land allotments, look here. To learn more about Oklahoma statehood and see a map of the Indian territory in the early 1900s, click here.

My Rating:  ★★★★    4 Stars

I received a review copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.
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