As promised in the review, the lovely Peggy Riley has written a guest post for me with suggestions of what to read next if you, like me, loved Amity and Sorrow. At the end of the post is an opportunity to win a hardback copy of the novel signed by Peggy – like all Tinder Press books, it looks gorgeous and there might also be a #GodSexFarming badge in it for you…
Over to Peggy!
In the spirit of Amity & Sorrow, here are a handful of books about God, sex & farming. I do hope you’ll give them a read:
PLENTY OF FARMING, QUITE A BIT OF GOD, A LITTLE BIT OF SEX:
The Grapes of Wrath had to be on my list, didn’t it? The Joad family’s farm fails with the Dust Bowl that emptied most of Oklahoma. They stack their possessions and family on the back of the family truck and head for California, the land of milk and honey where it’s rumoured there is plenty of fruit-picking work. Raised in California myself, and granddaughter to an “Okie”, I have long been aware of our agricultural history and the injustices done to migrant workers. Oklahoma refugees suffered terrible abuse in a state that was frightened it would fill to bursting. We still have that fear of migrants, I suppose, so this is a wonderful history of a specific point in history, as well as a timeless examination of fear and want. There is plenty of God and sex with the former preacher Jim Casy, who loses his faith after “fornicating with willing members of his church”. Of his novel, Steinbeck said, “I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this [the Great Depression and its effects]… I’ve done my damndest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags.” I reckon he succeeded. And how.
PLENTY OF GOD, QUITE A BIT OF SEX, A LITTLE FARMING:
Red Water by Judith Freeman tells the story of a polygamous fundamentalist Mormon marriage through the points of view of three wives. The story begins with the murder of their husband, John D. Lee, implicated in the notorious (and real life) Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857, whereby a group of Arkansas emigrants, bound for California, was attacked by Mormons and Paiute Indians. Freeman, raised Mormon herself, is a skilled historian and her book is filled with details that bring a mysterious episode in American history to life. Of polygamy, Freeman writes, “Growing up we were taught that polygamy had been a holy institution, a Divine Principle, an edict from God for the betterment of man… I find the Mormon culture a highly sexual culture, lusty in spite of the veneer of primness. There’s a kind of precocious sexiness and I think this is a residue of the early polygamous culture.” She is also a wonderful storyteller and her language is rich with poetry.
PLENTY OF GOD, A LITTLE SEX AND FARMING:
A “mercy seat” is a cover put into the Ark of the Covenant, to be used on the Day of Judgement, but it also means “the place of grace”. The Mercy Seat by Rilla Askew, is set on a dry and dusty pre-state Oklahoma, back when it stood in two halves, Oklahoma Territory to the west and Indian Territory to the east, the land that had been “given” to re-settled Native Americans from the south and east, moved off land that white Americans claimed. (The Oklahoma Panhandle, where Amity & Sorrow is set, was a “public land strip” then, claimed by many and wanted by none.) Before the land runs that would see Oklahoma carved up into farms, it was a hiding place, outlaw terrain. The story is told by plucky ten-year-old Mattie, whose gift of premonition becomes a curse. In this Cain and Abel tale of two brothers fighting over a gun patent and the need to be right, God is straight out of the Old Testament. With beautiful writing and big emotions, The Mercy Seat will stay with you, long after reading. It has for me, anyway.
GOD, SEX & TOBACCO FARMING:
I read The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds, when it was an Oprah book back in her grand old book club heyday. Goodreads recently reminded me of it, and I’m glad it did. It’s a gentle and folksy read about naïve Ninah, raised in the small, strict deep-South Christian faith created by her WW2 vet grandfather, The Church of Fire and Brimstone and God’s Almighty Baptizing Wind. A cracking name for a church, that. Ninah spends time with her prayer partner and cousin, James, attempting to resist all temptation. But when she finds herself pregnant, she tells her community it is God’s…
PLENTY OF FARMING AND ALL TYPES OF GODS, A DASH OF SEX:
The Night Birds, Thomas Maltman’s first novel, begins with a plague of locusts, devouring farms and livelihoods by the mouthful. It is 1860s Minnesota and German emigrants are struggling to work land that is claimed by embittered Dakota Sioux, in the aftermath of the Dakota War or The Sioux Uprising, depending on which side you were. When teenager Asa releases a Sioux from a local jail it gets him a whipping from his father, but the locusts all take their leave. Throughout a book that is rich in metaphor, German folklore and Dakota mysticism, Asa learns his history and the history of the land through the stories of his aunt, recently released from a mental asylum, where she was put after her capture by the Sioux and her subsequent marriage to one of their braves. It is a dark and riveting read about race, abolition, family and redemption. Perfectly lovely.
To win the signed hardback of Amity and Sorrow, just leave a comment below and I’ll pick a winner at random. It can be sent internationally and you have until 26th April to enter. You can also enter by tweeting about the giveaway, mentioning @bibliomouse.
This giveaway has now ended. I’ll pick a winner from the comments and Twitter and contact them this afternoon about receiving the prize. Thanks for entering!