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390 Western American Literature young daughter and a violent ex-husband; Hatt, elderly widow of a trading post owner and now confined to a nursing home; and Rose, hard-working Hopi wife and mother and one of Hatt’s nurses. Also, in extended and highly detailed dream sequences, Liz experiences 12th-century Hopi life and rituals through the eyes of Talasi, a perceptive young woman whose lifespan includes times of plenty followed by great want due to drought. Sojourner is much concerned with attention to detail. Whether describing Liz and her friends, Liz’s cats, the Painted Desert, nighttime driving across wastelands, or sleazy cowboy bars, Sojourner gets it right. The reader can and does take much pleasure from Sojourner’s descriptive powers. At other times, one is overwhelmed and frustrated. The minutiae-filled 12th-century Hopi scenes, for instance, while carefully researched and written, will prove tiresome for many. This is definitely not the popular fiction of Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear or Linda Lay Shuler’s She Who Remembers. As for the present, Sojourner creates interesting late-1980s characters in Liz, Deena, Hatt, and Rose. All four are strong-willed survivors of life’s big and little problems. Sojourner’s problem is that she doesn’t seem quite certain of what she should “do” with the women. An unwieldy amalgam of character sketches, loosely linked episodes, and place description, the present-day tale lacks both focus and drive. A story of female bonding both contemporary and across the centuries, Sojourner’s first novel, essentially a “buddy” novel, has considerable strengths in characterization and sense of place. One suspects, though, that a combina­ tion of some skillful editing throughout, plus more attention to plot develop­ ment or central story-line in the present-day sequences, probably would have made Sisters of the Dream a better book. JAMES B. HEMESATH Adams State College Winterchill. By Ernest J. Finney. (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1989. 239 pages, $16.95.) Ernest J. Finney chooses for his title an ironic requirement of nature: normal bud set will occur in an orchard only after an extended period of freezing weather. Without winter, in other words, there can be no blossom or harvest. This stylish novel, set on a 640-acre San Joaquin Valley plum orchard acquired by the sweat of a Clark known to the principals as Grandpa, and emphasizing his life and the lives of his two grandsons, their wives, and the abandoned son of a former foreman, uses “winter chill” as the central meta­ phor for its human interaction. Although the dust jacket promises a story of “renewal,” readers should not expect a simple freeze-leads-to-fruition sequence. There is a sort of success story in James Clark’s repurchase of his grandfather’s farm, most of which had been lost in the 1970s, but this too becomes ironic in comparison with the dominant human theme of loss. The narrative pits Reviews 391 time against space, and poses questions about the injuries inflicted by the former and the healing possible from the latter. Land is the only recoverable value in the narrative; and in the end the almost treeless—and duckless— farm is inherited by two men, both virtual orphans, to whom it represents at best a dubious pastoral. Winterchill covers four generations of the Clark family and charts what would be reckoned by most its rise to prosperity. But there is a strong populist strain throughout, and the wealthy are seen in a uniformly bad light. Economic problems are at the center of every chapter, and characters are judged on how gracefully they withstand the pressures of poverty. It is also significant that in this family-centered chronicle there are no satisfactory husband-wife, parent-child, or sibling relationships. Winterchill is a novel about what is missing in the lives of its characters. By fragmenting the narrative into seven sections, Finney has sought to convey the themes of betrayal and loss, focusing attention upon three characters who are in effect orphans, as was Grandpa Clark. Despite the fragmentation, the narrative order is cunningly symmetrical. Finney takes great risks with this novel, for the...


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pp. 390-391
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