TITLE: THE WIDOW SMALLS AND OTHER STORIES
Author: JAMIE LISA FORBES
Publisher: PRONGHORN PRESS
Publication Date: OCTOBER 15, 2014
Genre: LITERARY FICTION/ WESTERN
A Short Collection of Ranch Life Hardships
Jamie Lisa Forbes moved me with her WILLA Award winning novel Unbroken, now she has reached me again with this one, The Widow Smalls: And Other Stories. I don’t know, maybe it is the heart-wrenching plots of the stories themselves or the endearing, hardworking characters themselves, but yes, they made me tear up as I closed the book itself and gathered my thoughts to write this review for it. From her author’s biography at the end, Forbes was “raised on a family ranch in southeastern Wyoming” and rose to earn her degree from the University of Colorado in 1977. Something tells me she was determined to get herself out of the ranch life just by reading her book here and who wouldn’t want to, right? I can imagine the immense efforts to get by during the hard winters and to (as she would write), wean, birth, clean, hay, build, fix, etc. the animals and the land on a ranch. All of the stories in this book are stuck in my mind because they either teach a lesson, feature a sad event, and/or remind me of my own struggles in life (I’m very good at comparing different situations that have similar levels of trauma and difficulty).
Forbes’ book here should be read by all. I say this because one can learn from these ranch life hardships. Living off the land can be quite excruciating for someone who dreams a lot. There are no automatic results, you have to work to get them. Some desirable traits of the ranch life that made me smile through the tragedies are as follows: you can get your eggs from your chickens, your meat and milk from cows, and your exercise from the manual labor. The negatives of the ranch life are: isolation from the rest of the world, the late and early hours of the work to be done, the expanse of the work to be done, and the weather patterns. But aside from these, the stories include joining the military, attending annual celebrations, going off to college, befriending your boss’ pretty daughter, a President Lincoln look-alike, incest, and sleeping with your ranch hand. These make the stories interesting, tragic, and adventurous, you know?
I recommend this book to those who are looking for an old-fashioned read. I also recommend it to those who love the simple life as well as the hardships of the simple life. I really, really enjoyed this book as by now I have made it clear in my reviews that I love stories about families. The intriguing occurrences, the strange and eye-opening goings-on among some of them, the romances and the plot-twists, the nods to Western/Country America (I always have a place for stories that remind me of the Little House on the Prairie books, the cowboy world, etc.). Buy this book for yourself and read it during Holy Week. As a dweller of a metropolitan area, it’s always heartwarming to visit the countryside and discover the struggles and realities that occur there. Lastly, this book is free of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical, typographical, and structural errors. That is always a masterpiece in my view.