Adoring daddy, actually.
Teichmann (English and Modern Language/West Texas A&M), the author of Slow Mud (1998) and Woman of the Plains (2000), delivers a lush paean to the Texas Panhandle and the cowboys who love it. She simultaneously offers a highly experimental anatomy of a failed modern family: Felda, the disapproving wife; Forrest, the angry son; Cleve, the distant husband; and V., the middle-aged daughter who darts in and out of her childhood home and witnesses her father's agonizing death. A writer who lives in Florida with her new husband, Ash, V. chronicles her last trips to Texas to be with her dying father. She wants to capture him with words and stories from the ranch land that defines him. â€œV.'s been turning on the recorder when Ash and I stop playing cribbage, and I start to talk. Says she's getting the tone of what I say, wanting to write the sound of me in some novel,” Cleve says. It's the disappointment of a rigid mother and unforgiving brother that consumes V., however, and she constantly craves their approval. Sadly, V. sounds more whiny than wounded. â€œThe family didn’t seem to want to accept V. as one of them, none of the family, that is except Cleve.” If this were just Cleve's story, it would be sweet and clear; his voice, strong, sure, and without flourish, is pure poetry. But there are more layers than can be accommodated in V.'s confession of love and loss. A diary-like detailing of flower species, commentary on weather reports, and non-linear flashbacks and fast-forwards unfold without a compelling crescendo. â€œBut what about this 'writing?' ” Cleve asks. â€œProbably highfalutin stuff way above my head.” Not really–just literary conceit.
Cleve's death echoes throughout the novel, but it's his exuberant life as a cowboy, where the high plains meet the caprocks, that we strain to hear.