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In this exquisitely rendered memoir set on the high plains of Texas, Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell transforms into art what it is like to come of age in a particular time and place. A Strong West Wind begins in the 1950s in the wilds of the Texas Panhandle–a place of both boredom and beauty, its flat horizons broken only by oil derricks, grain elevators, and church steeples. Its story belongs to a girl who grew up surrounded by dust storms and cattle ranches and summer lightning, who took refuge from the vastness of the land and the ever-present wind by retreating into books. What she found there, from renegade women to men who lit out for the territory, turned out to offer a blueprint for her own future. Caldwell would grow up to become a writer, but first she would have to fall in love with a man who was every mother’s nightmare, live through the anguish and fire of the Vietnam years, and defy the father she adored, who had served as a master sergeant in the Second World War.

A Strong West Wind is a memoir of culture and history–of fathers and daughters, of two world wars and the passionate rebellions of the sixties. But it is also about the mythology of place and the evolution of a sensibility: about how literature can shape and even anticipate a life.

Caldwell possesses the extraordinary ability to illuminate the desires, stories, and lives of ordinary people. Written with humanity, urgency, and beautiful restraint, A Strong West Wind is a magical and unforgettable book, destined to become an American classic.


From the Hardcover edition.
Published: Random House Publishing Group an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on Dec 18, 2007
ISBN: 9780307430472
List price: $1.99
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This book is beautifully written, but not really my cup of tea. I had a very hard time getting into and staying in this book.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I was drawn to the idea of a memoir written by a literary critic in which she examines the pull of her Texas childhood on the woman she grows into being, who acknowledges the importance of the books she's read in shaping her personality, and who has gone on to have an illustrious and celebrated career in a field that is wildly interesting to me. Unfortunately, unlike almost every other reviewer out there who raves over this memoir, I thought the book fell flat.Divided into two parts: Texas and everything afterwards, this was a painfully slow, navel-gazing read. The writing was able but pretentious. It was emotionally flat. Caldwell is clearly an incredibly erudite woman but her meandering text was a strain. It was a strain to care. It was a strain to stay awake. It was a strain not to close the book for good one night and give into surrender. While she didn't fall into the dysfunctional childhood memoir, exactly, she seems to suggest that her father's exacting and strict influence on her life was somehow injurious. The young girl who overcame being stricken with polio as a baby, who powered through so much on sheer determination as a child, seemed to be lost as she grew up. And in her place was a depressed woman who had somehow lost her way. Riding along with her while she tried to find her sense of self again was not particularly pleasurable, despite the occasional flashes of beautiful imagery. I am essentially alone in my assessment of the book but I don't want another reading experience like this one any time soon.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.

Reviews

This book is beautifully written, but not really my cup of tea. I had a very hard time getting into and staying in this book.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I was drawn to the idea of a memoir written by a literary critic in which she examines the pull of her Texas childhood on the woman she grows into being, who acknowledges the importance of the books she's read in shaping her personality, and who has gone on to have an illustrious and celebrated career in a field that is wildly interesting to me. Unfortunately, unlike almost every other reviewer out there who raves over this memoir, I thought the book fell flat.Divided into two parts: Texas and everything afterwards, this was a painfully slow, navel-gazing read. The writing was able but pretentious. It was emotionally flat. Caldwell is clearly an incredibly erudite woman but her meandering text was a strain. It was a strain to care. It was a strain to stay awake. It was a strain not to close the book for good one night and give into surrender. While she didn't fall into the dysfunctional childhood memoir, exactly, she seems to suggest that her father's exacting and strict influence on her life was somehow injurious. The young girl who overcame being stricken with polio as a baby, who powered through so much on sheer determination as a child, seemed to be lost as she grew up. And in her place was a depressed woman who had somehow lost her way. Riding along with her while she tried to find her sense of self again was not particularly pleasurable, despite the occasional flashes of beautiful imagery. I am essentially alone in my assessment of the book but I don't want another reading experience like this one any time soon.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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