San Antonio’s PAULETTE JILES combines telling period detail and credible characters to evoke Depression-era Texas in her terrific second novel, STORMY WEATHER. The Stoddard women—mother Elizabeth and daughters Jeanine, Mayme, and Bea—are faced with the challenge of surviving not just the death of drinking, gambling, horse-racing breadwinner Jack but also the nation’s descent into poverty and the Southwest’s transformation into a dust bowl. With no reason to stay in the oil fields where Jack labored, the foursome return to the family farm on the Brazos River to find the fields overgrown and the house in disrepair. Young Bea enrolls in grade school. Mayme finds menial labor at a dairy farm. Elizabeth chases dreams by investing what little cash she has in wildcatter oil field shares. Jeanine is left to be their backbone, make the homestead workable, and map their future. Jiles is a single-minded storyteller; she writes with a lyrical but economical hand that perfectly suits her material. Though it coasts to a relatively unsatisfying conclusion, Stormy Weather is utterly engrossing—an impeccable work of fiction.
From the May 2007 Issue Subscribe