It is rare my first comment on a book is about its cover, but going back to that “You can’t tell a book by…” cliché, I will start there. The cover is aesthetically pleasing, but with a title like this, it is not the genre I usually choose. That is unfortunate because this is a very good entertaining, informative, and socially relevant read. The author’s writing always held my interest as the content moved swiftly and purposefully ahead. A reader might even discover some background nagging questions that stay in the mind with the hope they will be answered. Those questions just linger from chapter to chapter and provided an additional incentive to keep reading.
Ervin provides entertainment through character anecdotes of their hardscrabble existence. From dealing with outhouses to boiling water for baths to dealing with accounting records at the company store, characters detail how they get by. Some readers might see it as sad, as if this were a critical comment on class struggle. While it is true some characters might feel that way, the majority accept it as “that is just the way it is.” Things will get better, if you have faith and go to church on Sunday.
The informative part of the book relates to mill operations in a logging camp. Trees are cut, they have to be shipped to another location to be cut into board feet. This requires several different types of workers, from the unskilled grunt worker class to the skilled workers operating and maintaining saws. Then there are parts where women describe how to do household tasks at a time when there is either no, or limited electricity. The reader may want to go to Wikipedia to check some of the specific logging camp terminology, although Ervin does a good job of supplying context clues.
Ervin describes the social structure of this next-to-the-earth subsistence culture. How were prostitutes valued other than in economic terms? We can be sure there was domestic violence, how does that relate to today? How can a woman survive in such a bare-knuckle environment with no support structure (husband or family) no money, and no job prospects?
The story is basically this. Happy-go-lucky May falls in love with Jaime, an attractive, socially adept, possible bad boy. Life is good for the first several months, but she ends up spending a lot of time alone in a cabin in the woods close to a logging camp. A couple of years into the marriage, May might see Jaime fortnightly… or maybe not. And then he only stops by to complain. He spends all his time in the logging camp and only stops by to check on his control of May. But there were also his visits to prostitutes in town. And the drinking. And the guy he killed. That last would cause many problems for May Rose as the family of dead Donelly takes every chance to get revenge from May.
Jaime’s criminal act occurs at the same time May Rose moves into town with the intention of leaving Jaime for good. But how to do so with no money? Very interesting writing leads us to be happy for her as she gradually succeeds, but then the entire existence of the logging town begins a steady decline as a result of a train crash. There is no transportation into the town, no way to get a product out, and no work for the one factor economy. There are food shortages and electrical power rationing. This is getting dystopian.
This is a nice, comfortable read. I did not expect any surprise endings. And then I was surprised as several things came together quickly… in ways I did not expect.
Here are some interesting things to do or look for while reading:
Without going to the “about the book” section or looking at material after the book, try to figure out from the story the approximate years when this might have taken place. I couldn’t do it, one of those questions in the back of my mind as I read.
How do Evangeline and Dracula relate to anything? This can be figured out; it is just not immediately apparent.
Do you think that May Rose could change her feelings for Jaime so completely and with such finality after a lengthy, lonely, residence in a cabin near a logging camp? Her pre-marriage personality and the one that emerged after her decision to leave are polar opposites.
Carol Ervin is another writer to follow on Amazon. And buy the books.