by Dorothy Garlock, historical (2001)
Warner, $6.99, ISBN 0-446-60814-9
I have a feeling this book will make some readers go all warm and cuddly - if you think a hero's jackass behavior is okay because he has such a lo-ooo-ooo-ooousy childhood, and if you think Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man ("If you love him, you'll forgive him...") the new anthem for good old family values (those good old days, yes?), run out and buy a copy now. If you think women have a higher threshold for their men's jackass antics in the 1950's, and it's all in the name of 'historical accuracy', go buy one too.
Me? Watch out, here comes the book hurtling towards the wall! Weeeee - smash!
Once, 16-year old Nelda Hanson is impregnated by her young boyfriend from the wrong side of town Luke Hanson. Her father forced her to marry Luke and then takes her away to a place where Luke will never find them. Years later, Nelda returns to town for some woman-back-in-smalltown affair and finds Luke her neighbor. Oops.
First off, Nelda's an idiot. At 16, she lets her father runs her life and arranges her divorce from Luke. Fine, she was 16. But when she doesn't even attend her child's funeral (the baby dies soon after birth), I get a bit exasperated but hey, I tell myself, she's young. Now, she's in her mid-twenties, but hell, she still behaves like a timid mouse. Her father's dead and buried, and it's way time she escapes his ghost, but until the very last page, she remains a timid mouse.
Which makes her ripe for the even more immature Luke's bullying. To Luke, the excuse "You are old enough to carry my child!" is legitimate enough to hate, hate, hate Nelda all the way through the story, even after that whiny wimp's weak protests that she is a spineless twit, sorry, "doesn't know" about her father's antics. Then, after pawing her and kissing her and pushing her away angrily, he decides to forgive her. At this point, I am ready to burst into tears of relief - maybe now we can have some adult behavior, yes? No. His idea of forgiveness? Reject her and silently let her move out of his life.
Luke is like one big baby needing Mommy Nelda's care, and Nelda is one of those really weak, passive women who just can't speak up when the moment demands it. This is definitely those old fashioned country song territory where women are quiet and weak and their men castigate them for it. If this is a movie, Stand By Your Man will be blaring at full volume from the speakers as the credits roll and I run for the exit for some much-needed fresh air.
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