In rural Oklahoma in 1928, years after losing her mother, 18-year-old Maud Nail keeps her small household afloat while her father is off carousing, even as she falls in love and yearns to escape the narrow confines of her existence.
As the novel opens, Maud is forced to shoot the family’s cow, which has been axed in the back by a vengeful neighbor, as her sensitive brother is not up to the task. Maud is a smart, sensible, and plucky heroine of mixed white and Cherokee heritage who reads all the books she can get her hands on. While her father is on the lam and her brother is ill, she enters into a romance with Booker Wakefield, a courtly and kind white traveling salesman. Though she pines for his return when he leaves town unexpectedly, she falls back into a flirtation and then a relationship with a local boy. Maud is refreshingly open and honest about her own sexuality though conscious of her place as a woman in a sexist society, always careful not to insult the intelligence or manhood of her male friends and relations. Verble writes in a simple style that matches the hardscrabble setting and plainspoken characters. However, the book’s conceit of having Maud wait several days to read a letter from Booker explaining his absence, as she's afraid to discover its contents, and then having the letter blow out of her hands and get soaked by the rain so it becomes unreadable, seems like an unnecessarily contrived plot device out of keeping with the otherwise straightforward storytelling.
Verble, herself a member of the Cherokee Nation, tells a compelling story peopled with flawed yet sympathetic characters, sharing insights into Cherokee society on the parcels of land allotted to them after the Trail of Tears.