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A story of Oklahoma dirt-farm rags to boom-town Dallas riches, by an author who's contributed numerous short stories to women's magazines and written two mysteries (Outrageous Fortune, 1981; Little Company, 1982). In the admirable opening, the author focuses on a sharecropper's daughter, little Cassandra Taylor, born and raised by her devout, earthy Granny in San Bois, Oklahoma, during the Depression. Innocent, but questing for knowledge, she attends a one-room schoolhouse in oversize boy's high-tops and dreams of living in a house like that of Dick and Jane in the Bobbs-Merrill Second Reader. Then Granny dies, her demented half-brother tries to rape her, and she's forced to live with her lazy cousin, Ella Mae Hedge, and her lustful husband, Dale. Despairing of the situation, Cassie skips town just before graduating from high school and goes to Ballard, Oklahoma, where she meets and marries the son of the landowner for whom her father once worked. . .making her rich, but not happy. It's only when she realizes that she loves her brother-in-law, Dix, and her husband gets her at once pregnant and infected with gonorrhea, that she hits Highway 69 to Dallas. There she becomes a hotshot divorce lawyer, has an affair with her partner, has a baby by Dix--in fact, has just about everything a body could ever want. There's a very promising start here, beautifully creating the psychological world of the child Cassie and her tawdry Tobacco Road-like surroundings. But halfway through, the author settles for cliches; the writing--and especially the dialogue--gets tinny, the plot implausible. Perhaps Elmblad's next will be more consistent.

Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 1987