The Town

Richter, Conrad. The Town. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970.

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

When we rejoin Sayward she is in her late forties and has given birth to ten children. Nine have survived. She is witness to the transformation of the wilderness into a civilized community but she can remember when she started her young life in the deep woods of Ohio with trees all around. In awe she watches as the necessities of a communal existence blossom into a church, school, meeting house, and grist mill. The canal becomes a focal point as brick structures replace wooden ones. She can remember when it all started – her family looking to stave off hunger by pushing west in the hopes of cultivating richer soils into bountiful gardens. The Trees told of isolation while The Fields saw settlements encroaching on the family’s privacy until finally they realized the need for one another was a good thing and the Town is born.
Even though most of Sayward’s children are grown with families of their own, in The Town the reader spends the majority of time with Sayward’s youngest child, Chancey. He is a strange child, afraid of everything; paranoid and preferring to be alone. He is so dissimilar to his siblings he strongly believes he is adopted. His failure to understand any member of his family is borderline obsessive. When meeting strangers he even gives them a false name. His claims his weak heart doesn’t allow him to walk very far. Soon a dark family secret turns out to be his greatest heartbreak. Honestly, I found him to be a difficult character to like.
Interesting to note: Portius is initially overlooked for a position as judge because of his agnostic views.
I don’t think it is a spoiler to say the mysterious disappearance of Sulie in The Trees is finally resolved in The Town.

Quote I liked, “She seemed to be writing on the night” (p 305).

Setlist: “Fly Up,” “The Lady of Loti Polka,” “On Nesbo’s Lovely Mount,” “Moses’s Funeral March,” and “The River Between.”

Author fact: Richter was born in Pennsylvania but moved to New Mexico.

Book trivia: The Town received a Pulitzer Prize.

Nancy said: Pearl said Richter’s stories have to be read in order.

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


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).