The Fields

Richter, Conrad. The Fields. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964.

Reason read: to continue the series started in March in honor of Ohio becoming a state.

When we rejoin Sayward Wheeler (nee Luckett), she has given birth to a baby boy she names Resolve. What a cool name for a kid! Sayward is a lonely woman because she has married a hesitant man. Portius ran out on Sayward when it came time to get married. He disappeared when she gave birth to their first son and it took Portius a long time to even acknowledge his first born son, Resolve. Portius was not even part of the baptism ceremony for Resolve. Sayward’s sister Genny is the only family she has left in the region. Everyone else has scattered to the wind. Her father left when Jary died and Wyitt only returns from time to time. Sulie is still missing, presumed either dead or held captive by the regional natives. Betrayal follows Sayward but she is a resilient woman. She knows how to fight adversity fair and square.
Fast fast forward and now Sayward has had seven children; eight if you could little Sulie who died in a fire. With her brood of children Sayward watches her southern Ohio woodland home stretch into fields of openness with more and more people populating the area. Statehood has been declared and soon there is a need for a meeting house, school, boat launch, grist mill; times are changing. As the trees and animals are cleared out Sayward knows nothing will be the same. A competition grows between the newly established Tateville and Sayward’s Moonshine Settlement. With Portius spending more time in town Sayward must chose between society’s growing expansion and the comfort of all she has ever known.
As an aside, I have always wondered about churches with a graveyard attached. Why the two always seem to go together. It was interesting when the townspeople approached Sayward for her land. The fields are growing into towns and people need a church. Sayward has the most land to offer.
As another aside, I found the gluttonous hunting scene a little much: in total the men slaughtered at one time nineteen wolves, twenty-one bears, three panthers ,two hundred and ninety seven deer, and too many raccoon, fox, squirrel, and turkey to count. Richter summed it up well when he wrote of Sayward’s brother Wyitt, “He was drunk, that’s what he was, drunk on blood and gunpowder” (p 78).

Soundtrack: “Farewell of a Minister”

Author fact: Richter was born and died in Pennsylvania.

Book trivia: The Fields is the only book in the trilogy to not receive some kind of award.

Nancy said: Pearl said all three Richter books should be read in order.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest (Ohio)” (p 30).

Industrial Valley

Kitty readsMcKenney, Ruth. Industrial Valley. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co, 1939.

I love first editions of books. I don’t know why. As a rule I don’t collect books based on what edition they are, first or last. Generally, I like books for what is between the covers. Still. I can’t help but be a little excited by reading the first edition of Industrial Valley. Please don’t ask me why.

The controversy surrounding Industrial Valley reminded me of the controversy Billy Joel faced when he wrote “Allentown.” In the begining townspeople didn’t really care too much for Joel’s bleak description of factory life. Yet, it was the truth. Ashamed or proud, that’s how it was. Same with Akron, Ohio. “Rubbertown” as some would call it.
Industrial Valley was written in a diary-like format. Near daily events, both political and social, between January 1, 1932 and March 21, 1936, recount Akron’s depressed economic state. Some entries seem unrelated to the depression (a boy’s death after being hit by a truck) while others hammer home the effect the ecomony had on daily life in an obvious manner (the suicide of a man who couldn’t feed his family). In the end, it was the historic Goodyear strike that changed the industrial climate. Democracy reined.

Favorite lines: “The bitter realities of unemployment and salary cuts conquered, in the end, any sophorific West Hill could imbibe” (p 60).
“All of Akron jumped like a housewife getting a shock from a loose electric wire on her washing machine” (p 219).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “Big Ten Country: The Literary Miswest (Ohio)” (p 29).