HILL COUNTRY by Janice Woods Windle

HILL COUNTRY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Texas history, and its larger-than-life personalities--including a substantial appearance by that quintessential Texan, Lyndon Baines Johnson--turns a fictionalized story of the author's grandmother into a scattershot dash through time. Windle, whose first novel, True Women (paperback), became a 1996 CBS miniseries, now takes the incomplete autobiography of her paternal grandmother, Laura Woods, and converts it into a novel that is as much a celebration of a person as a place. The story begins in 1877, when Laura's family is farming in the Texas Hill Country and Apache brigands roam the land. While her father is away, seven-year-old Laura, bathing in the river with her siblings, catches sight of an Apache band heading their way. The children warn their mother, who wounds the leader and forces his cohorts to flee. But Laura can't forget one of the band, handsome Herman, a white boy who was stolen and raised by the Apache. Later, Laura meets up again with Herman and falls in love, but he can't give up his outlaw life, so instead she marries Peter Woods, a local horse breeder. Her life continues to be full of incident as she tries to outwit Mexican Revolutionaries while entraining horses to Galveston, and as she watches Peter behead a man who ran down his cattle. Laura, though, harbors political ambitions. Her mother had once met Lincoln, and Laura continues the tradition as she encounters Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and, of course, Lyndon Johnson, whose mother Rebekah is her best friend. She longs for Peter to be elected governor but has to settle for appointive positions in Texas politics. In her 90s, she is still remembered by LBJ, who calls her every Christmas. Laura is brave, indeed, but her chilling self-regard makes her hard to like or admire. Still, a lively if uncritical reprise of recent Texas history.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Longstreet