“By God, this is a fine way to start off the new century!” Father shouted.
Agnes looked through the sunflower stalks at the man in the fancy buggy who waited outside the cabin. Two bluebirds flitted from an oak to an elderberry bush. A woodpecker, quick wooden clapper in the bell of summer, rapped on the trunk of a walnut tree. Inside, Mother was crying.
“You’ve been busy while I was away! Who is he? Who’s the father? Just tell me that! Everyone’s wonderin’!”
Agnes ran to the well and pumped a stream of water into the tin cup that hung on the post. She wet her face, then dried it with the floursacking of her skirt. Sometimes when she and Father stood here after supper he would point to the Missouri hills rolling one after another, like waves on an ocean, he said, and when she asked if he’d seen the ocean he said no, but he didn’t need to. He already knew what it looked like. He would tell her about his Indian blood which he’d passed on to her, then spit with contempt at the Rallses, Mother’s family, farmers and church-goers who would always be poor.
The Rallses didn’t bother to think about what was beyond those hills, he said. The Smedley line was different. The Smedleys, now, they had some imagination. Some spunk. And Father would tell about the opportunities farther west. How you could jump on the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul and be out of Missouri before you knew it. There was a fortune to be made out west in any number of enterprises.
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|“A fascinating story, and a wonderful book.”
Alex George, author of A Good American
“Lee’s prose is smooth and her account of Smedley’s evolution is sympathetic and colorful…the author adeptly creates scenes that highlight the surreal miscellany of her subject’s life…and engaging tale about a remarkable female activist.”
“The novelist’s portrayal of Smedley’s emotional life, especially her love life, is powerful.”
“This is a beautifully and deftly written account of the life of one of the most intriguing women of the first half of the twentieth century.”
“Marlene Lee, whose first novel, The Absent Woman, was published in 2013 when she was 74 years old, is an undiscovered literary gem, with a unique style and perspective; her work is full of subtle insights and unexpected poetry. She has been overlooked for far too long.”
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