The story of a young woman’s courage in the face of unrelenting adversity. Inspired by actual events. Coming this January by Penner Publishing.
If you follow my website, you’ll notice a new tab at the top: THE EDGE OF NOWHERE. This new tab provides specific information as it relates to the novel, the inspiration for its telling, and background information on the era.
One question you may be wondering: Is this story true? Yes and no. The Edge of Nowhere is a work of complete fiction, but incorporates many of the anecdotes I grew up hearing from my father’s generation. It was inspired by the experiences of my own grandmother, with a whole lot of imagination thrown in. As my daddy would say, “Why tell the truth when, with a little imagination, you can make up a really great story?”
Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene knows her family despises her. She’s even heard her grandchildren snigger behind her back about the “Immaculate Conception of David” – her fifth child, conceived between husbands. But Victoria refuses to die before revealing the secrets she’s held locked away for more than 50 years; the secrets only whispered about in family folklore that have made her the feared matriarch of her family.
Widowed with nine children, Victoria will do anything to provide for her children – even murder, and without remorse. Each day brings greater challenges: poverty, homelessness, death, starvation, degradation and disease. Some challenges will require despicable acts to overcome. But at what cost? Can her family understand the decisions she’s made to secure their futures?
The Edge of Nowhere is a work of historical fiction inspired by the experiences of my own grandmother during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. While it is a complete work of fiction, many of the stories contained within its pages are based upon anecdotes that have been passed down from my father’s generation, through mine, and down to my children. Several of the key factors of the book are taken from their actual experiences, and others are the product of my imagination or exaggeration. As a reader, you’ll have to decide which is which. The answers may surprise you.
Four of my grandparents’ combined fourteen children. These four were their first together. Not pictured are the five he brought to the marriage, and the five that came after this photo was taken. Front Row: Bill and Geraldine / Back Row: Shirley and Ed (My Daddy). For readers of the book, these four children inspired the characters of Jack, Grace, Sara and Ethan.
The Dust Bowl that swept through Oklahoma and neighboring states was arguably the most devastating natural disaster to ever hit American soil. Unlike a tornado, earthquake or a hurricane, the Dust Bowl lasted nearly ten straight years. What was once beautiful green prairie and farmland of wheat fields as far as the eye can see soon became nothing but dust and dirt. A desert of sorts. Everywhere you looked was blowing dirt. It got into your mouth and ears. You couldn’t help but to inhale it deep into your lungs until you choked. Many during this time died of what came to be known as “dust pneumonia.” It was relentless and brutal.
Farming was the lifeblood of most Oklahomans during this time, but the soil had become so eroded that nothing would grow. If your livelihood is farming and nothing will grow, what do you do? How do you live? These are the questions I began asking myself as Victoria’s story unfolded. How do you provide for your family when you’re a single woman alone with nearly a dozen children and no resources?
An important thing to remember about Oklahomans of this era is that most had no formal education. They knew one thing: farming. If you’ve read Steinbeck’s epic novel, The Grapes of Wrath, then you know that many of these people moved West for a better life. Most people were too poor to move, however, and so they stayed behind and hoped for better days. The Edge of Nowhere is the story of those people. It’s the story of the true Oklahoma Spirit — the dogged determination and tenacity that continues to see them through continued disasters like the Oklahoma City Bombing and the yearly tornados that destroy home and property. It is the story of a people dedicated to the land they love and the place they call home. An interesting side note is that many of these same families who stayed behind and endured the harsh life of The Dust Bowl are still there today. The same lands that once had forsaken them are now being farmed by their children and grandchildren.
During this era, my grandmother was left a widow with her husband’s five nearly grown children and an additional seven smaller ones for a grand total of twelve children (she would go on to remarry after this era and have two more children for a combined fourteen). She was only 28 years old. Soon thereafter, she lost their farm and she found herself homeless, hungry and with few resources. She had no family to speak of, so providing and caring for these children fell entirely to her. I don’t know what she was like before my grandfather’s death, but I know that in the years I knew her she was strong and opinionated. She ruled her children with an iron fist and they respected her for it. She was a legend and not many people would dare to cross her path.
So sets the stage for The Edge of Nowhere. You have a young woman, widowed, with a combined twelve children. You have no resources. You’ve lost your home, your children are hungry, jobs are scarce, what do you do? Maybe a better question is this: What wouldn’t you do to provide for your children? And how do the decisions you’re forced to make change the person you are?
This book is currently under contract with Penner Publishing with an expected publication date of January 19, 2016. While you wait, take some time to visit the PBS website dedicated to the Dust Bowl. You can find that link here.
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Embedded Music: My Oklahoma Home Blowed Away
Copyright by Pete Seeger from his 2005 album, The Essential Pete Seeger
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