Books by Sandra Scofield

THE LAST DRAFT by Sandra Scofield
Released: Dec. 5, 2017

"Patience and commitment, this useful guide reveals, are a writer's strongest assets."
An award-winning fiction writer and teacher shares hard-won advice. Read full book review >
SWIM by Sandra Scofield
Released: May 15, 2017

"Short pieces by an author who wields unease like a tool; a lean volume full of hearty character details and mid-20s yearning."
Three connected stories about an ingénue who travels across continents and oceans in the 1960s. Read full book review >
OCCASIONS OF SIN by Sandra Scofield
Released: Jan. 1, 2004

"A tender but clear-eyed tribute."
Growing up with a mother whose big dreams were thwarted by a teenage pregnancy, inadequate education, and ill health. Read full book review >
PLAIN SEEING by Sandra Scofield
Released: Sept. 10, 1997

The seemingly inexhaustible potential for mothers to ruin daughter's lives—even if it's by dying young—is probed in a novel that tries to be warm, wise, and moving, but without much success. Scofield (Opal on Dry Ground, 1994, etc.) assembles a strong cast of supporting characters to tell the story of a woman obsessed with her mother's early death. But the weakest figures here, unfortunately, are the two protagonists: mother Emma and daughter Lucy, whose self-destructive and self-absorbed lives evoke more impatience than sympathy—even when Emma has to abandon her dream career and the grown Lucy's family walks out on her. Now 45, Lucy, still unhappy and yearning to understand why her life seems so wretched, tells a story framed by two photographs: one taken of her mother in May 1938, full of promise, and another of herself as a baby in the 1940s. Emma, a blond beauty, dreams of leaving her home in New Mexico and going to Hollywood in search of stardom. Then she meets Hollis, a screenwriter on location in the desert, and accepts his invitation to come to California. But she loses her virginity in a barely credible manner and becomes pregnant, cutting short her burgeoning movie career that kindly Hollis has been nursing along. Back in New Mexico with mother Greta and sister Opal, she gives birth to Lucy, marries someone else, and dies in her early 30s without sharing her past with her daughter. Which of course explains why Lucy has been unhappy, unfaithful in her marriage to academic Gordon, and not a good mother to daughter Laurie. A traffic accident, in which Lucy is badly injured and after which Gordon and Laurie abandon her, leads to the predictable catharsis. Lucy rallies, and, after finally learning the truth about Mom—and Dad—feels ``able to live a real life'' at last. Shallow and schematic. Not Scofield's best. (Author tour) Read full book review >
OPAL ON DRY GROUND by Sandra Scofield
Released: June 1, 1994

Scofield's fifth novel, arguably her best since the award- winning Beyond Deserving (1991), has all the humor and plaintive charm of a good country-western song. In fact, with its cast of oft-divorced characters looking for love within the framework of a big, messy, mix-and-match family in Lubbock, the lyrics would come naturally, Texas twang and all. Opal Duffy, the clan's matriarch, is 58 years old and suffers from various ailments, including brittle bones and a swollen heart. Her biggest problem, though, is that she can't take care of everybody as well as she wants to. She blames herself for the fact that her two daughters, Joy and Clancy, are both divorced and lonely; she also feels guilty that her beloved mother has recently died, at home and alone. The one person for whom Opal can't seem to spare much energy or attention is Russell, her affable, younger third husband. Russell owns the house where Opal's brood has come to roost, but he lies low amid the comings and goings of Joy, Clancy, their boyfriends, ex-husbands, and Joy's sulky teenage daughter, Heather. To add to the confusion, there is also a cat, a pet bird, and frequent visits from Russell's own problematic children, as well as his mother, Imogene. Scofield handles this assortment of characters deftly, playing out their various crises with a lighter touch than she has shown in the past. The result is that Opal and her crew seem a vanguard example of whatever ``family'' might mean in the nineties: a tangle of ex-wives, stepmothers, in-laws, et al. kept together by a feisty protagonist possessed of determination and enough love to fill any heart. A memorable family ballad, in tune with the times. (Author tour) Read full book review >
MORE THAN ALLIES by Sandra Scofield
Released: Nov. 1, 1993

The glue of female friendship—sticky in unexpected ways—is the focus of this fourth novel by Scofield (Walking Dunes, 1992, etc.), who has written with skill in the past about stark western settings and the even starker emotional lives of her youngish characters. Maggie first enters the Jarrett household in Lupine, Oregon, as a teenaged foster child. Within several years, she's married to the Jarretts' son, Mo, and the mother of a small son, Jay. Later, following the birth of daughter Stevie, Mo wants to move to Texas, where he can find better job opportunities, but Maggie is loath to leave home and the security of her foster mother, now mother-in- law, Polly. Mo goes; Maggie stays—and unhappiness reigns. Meanwhile, living nearby in Lupine is Dulce, a Mexican-American whose husband—also in Texas—has recently been released from prison. Dulce's world intersects with Maggie's only at certain points. Their sons know each other, and Dulce cleans house for the more hoity-toity women in Maggie's book group. Eventually, Maggie and Dulce find themselves linked in more supportive ways, and the two women help each other move forward—or at least move on toward Texas. Scofield sketches memorable characters here, and her clear prose is a pleasure. But on certain levels, her message breaks down. The upper-class book-group women are exquisitely limned in their awfulness, but the moral appears to be that Maggie and Dulce, by mere virtue of their humbler backgrounds, are superior souls. This belittles what we already know of their complicated, flawed- -and wonderfully human—souls. Some beautifully carved pieces that never quite fit together to complete the puzzle. Read full book review >
WALKING DUNES by Sandra Scofield
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

Teenagers in small-town Texas in the late 1950's: it sounds like a retake on The Last Picture Show, but Scofield (Gringa, 1988; Beyond Deserving, 1991) manages to make this darkly compelling novel all her own. Basin, Texas, is where 18-year-old David Puckett has lived his whole life. His mother Marge works in a mental hospital. His father Saul is an embittered Jewish tailor from New York who abandoned the family for years, returning when David was 13. Saul and Marge spend their time together drinking and arguing. David knows in his bones that his father will leave again someday, and the teenager dreams of his own way out, probably in the form of a tennis scholarship to college. Through tennis, David has been befriended by some of the country club crowd, notably the Kimbrough family, whose daughter, Beth Ann, voted Most Beautiful in the senior class, seems to have her eye on him. But there are others with claims on David as well- -his steady girlfriend, cheerleader Glee; prickly intellectual Patsy Randall, his costar in the school play; and spacey Sissy, the troubled girl he met at his mother's hospital. When two tragedies shake the town, causing David to lose the camaraderie and support of both his best friends, he feels almost pulled apart by the choices he has to make. Finding a way out and, more importantly, picking the right path, is trickier and more heartbreaking than he ever dreamed. The novel's end is powerful and probably inevitable, but disappointing nonetheless. Scofield wins us over completely with David, a strong, smart,just-flawed-enough character, and we can't help wishing him a better fate. Coming-of-age, served up Texas-style. Plenty potent, it could bring tears to your eyes. Read full book review >
BEYOND DESERVING by Sandra Scofield
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

Scofield's second novel (after Gringa, 1989)—a family chronicle about twins (one good-as-gold, the other hard-to-handle), their wives, and their parents—is good at orchestrating the attractions and repulsions of intertwined lives over some 15 years. Gully and Geneva Fisher's twin sons are Fisher and Michael. Fisher, once in prison, suffering from post-traumatic shock syndrome a decade after Vietnam, is married to Katie, who leaves him in 1978 when he hits her. She deposits daughter Rhea in Texas with her mother, then finds a new job and a boyfriend, geneticist Jeff, while mulling over divorce as Fish disappears and reappears. Meanwhile, Michael is too predictable to wife Ursula, who works with failed families (``If only Michael would surprise her. Doing what she can not imagine''). They also have troubles with son Carter (``emotionally immature, maybe morally retarded'') and daughter Juliette (aspiring to be a dancer). Scofield then shifts to Geneva and Gully (Gully having once spent time in the state mental hospital) and expertly shuffles her characters, contrasting Fisher's ``sheer energy'' and wife Katie's indecision (Fisher hits her but also reads ``The Sotweed Factor to her by kerosene lamp'') to Ursula's frustration with her husband and alienated children. Still, this is an all's-well-that-ends-well book: Katie finally brings Rhea back and decides ``I seem to have Fish in me as much as ever, and I can't just set him aside''; Michael and Ursula and the kids work things out; and Gully starts writing the story of his life in response to Rhea's curiosity. The characters can be a bit schematic, but Scofield does poetic justice to one of those messy, awful families where everybody is always getting into everybody else's business. Overall, a good read full of wise detail. Read full book review >