Thursday, April 02, 2009

New This Month: A Sandhills Ballad by Ladette Randolph

It strikes me that A Sandhills Ballad (University of New Mexico Press) is a nearly perfect book. The harsh Nebraska landscape is a complete character in its own right. Unforgiving. Somewhat distant. Aloof. Home. The human characters are more yielding, but only just. And the sum of what author Ladette Randolph creates here is unforgettable.

We meet Mary Rasmussen as she’s awakening from a six week coma after an accident in which the bride lost her husband.
In that deep sleep she dreamt about the wind. She heard it whistle under the windowsills and through the cracks of an empty house, heard it rattle the loose No Hunting sign on a weathered post, and slam open and shut again the sagging door of an old barn.
A husband is not all Mary lost in the accident and, over the fullness of A Sandhills Ballad, her emotional awakening is like a rebirth.

The most startling thing about A Sandhills Ballad is the fact that Randolph does not have a wider following. A winner of the Nebraska Book Award (for the collection, This Is Not the Tropics), she is also the recipient of a Norcroft fellowship, a Pushcart Prize and the Virginia Faulkner Award. With the publication of this exquisite novel, perhaps her name will become better known.

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