HARVESTING BALLADS by Philip Kimball

HARVESTING BALLADS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Kimball's first novel has an inherently sturdy story to tell--one that just barely withstands the stylistic and patterned pretentiousness of the treatment. The hero here is a Sixties drifter named Sorry--so named because his mother Blanche-fleur died giving birth to him. . . at the very moment his rodeo-rider father was being killed in an accident. The basic tale: Sorry comes to stay on the Oklahoma farm of his puritanical Uncle Marcus (his mother's brother) and winds up nearly stealing away Marcus' frustrated wife Isadora. Dustbowl flashbacks tell the story of Blanche-fleur's quest for freedom from brother Marcus; there are sympathetic scenes from Isadora's life as a nurse before marriage; and these sequences offer substantial interest. Matters aren't helped, though, by an unconvincing resolution: Sorry, spurned by one Isadora, finds salvation with yet another Isadora--Isadora Whitehands, a Cherokee woman trying to save an ancestral farm. And the style is an impediment throughout, with its stenographic, predictable, droning rhythms: ""Dust-blinded cows, run bawling circles until they drop, suffocated, nostrils clogged mucus mud. Jack-rabbits huddled close to the ground, face away from the storm, downwind wake settled dust."" Earnestly effective in spots, but too self-conscious and mannered while making familiar points in the American-plains-archetype tradition.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1984
Publisher: Dutton