WINDS OF BLAME by Jane Gilmore Rushing
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One day in 1916, the farmtown Doane family holds a meeting in the absence of father Harvey: they vote to kill him; the sole negative vote is that of 18-year-old daughter Isabel. But, along with battered mother Lizzie and the five other children, Isabel awaits the moment when her 20-year-old brother Ray will choose to shoot sadistic Harvey Doane--who has subjected the whole clan to beatings, humiliations, deprivations of even the simplest pleasures. Harvey's latest outrages: he has brought a prostitute (essentially a hapless girl grateful for the rescue) into the home to lavish money on; he has brutally killed the family clog; he savagely beats his crippled son. And the local East Texas community of Greenfields has done nothing to help the abused family: Greenfields people ""see what they want to see. . . the leaves are green and the sky is blue and men for the most part lead righteous lives."" (Harvey, after all, runs a tolerable farm, is on the Sunday School board, so what he does at home is his own business.) Soon, then, Harvey is indeed killed; Ray admits to the murder immediately. But the town (relieved? guilty?) declares it ""an accident,"" and the Doanes are at last free--or are they? Ray will always be known, he says, as ""the man who killed his daddy""; and what of his engagement to Isabel's best friend, Joanna Waters, the young embodiment of town mores? (An underground current of community taboos keeps them both wavering.) For Isabel, too, opening horizons are shadowed--by her increasing obsession with Truth, with the prospect of building lives around a lie: when she falls in love with ""outsider"" reporter Arch/e Hastings, she feels she must tell him the truth about her father's death. So Greenfields, which ""condoned murder,"" will mount an attack on Isabel--after which there'll be Isabel's eloquent counter-attack. . . and a surprise twist to the murder (with another, rather gratuitous tragedy). Like Rushing's arresting fictional biography of Ann Hutchinson (Covenant of Grace, 1982): an acute probe of community mores in conflict with an individual of self-punishing integrity--strong on intense drama, regional ambience, and thematic confrontations.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1983
Publisher: Doubleday