Thursday, November 03, 2011

Tom's Wife

The years of America’s Great Depression were particularly tough ones for a young woman to find herself trapped inside an abusive marriage.  The struggle for family survival often placed unbearable stress on relationships that may have thrived in better times, but most women of that period could do little but endure the hand dealt them.  Nineteen-year-old Annie Huckaby, the heroine of Alana Cash’s Tom’s Wife, is one of those women.  Barely literate, Annie cannot imagine how she might provide for herself and her young son if she were to flee her marriage.  Her mother offers little comfort and has reminded Annie that “a good woman don’t go off on her husband.”  So Annie will do her best to be a good wife to Tom Huckaby.

That Tom comes home only on weekends from his coalmine job is one of the things that make Annie’s life bearable.  The rest of the week, she is happy enough, though still lonely, to have only her young son to worry over as she goes about her tasks caring for the little Huckaby farm.  Only as the weekend approaches, does her mood begin to darken.  Annie is grateful, too, for her friend Twila, a much worldlier young neighbor woman who pays her regular visits from a nearby farm.  Twila even manages to introduce Annie to the experiences of smoking and drinking moonshine, two indulgences she would probably have been too timid to try on her own.

Annie’s life, however, had been somewhat complicated by the two males who entered it almost together: her baby and the traveling salesman from New York who happened by just as Annie was about to deliver the boy on her own.  Jake Stern is such a contrast to her rough-edged husband that Annie often fantasizes about a new life with Jake even though she sees him only every few months when he passes through the area selling the latest batch of gadgets he has carried down from New York.  Annie considers herself a good woman – and, more than anything, she wants to do the right thing by Tom – but she is finding it harder and harder to ignore her feelings for Jake Stern.

Alana Cash
Alana Cash has created a cast of memorable, and believable, characters through which she vividly illustrates the Great Depression’s impact on rural America.  Annie, Tom, Jake, and Twila are complicated human beings, and that is what makes them real.  Tom may be the book’s “bad guy,” but there are moments during which his compassion is own display; Annie is the heroine of the piece, but she is sorely tempted to desert her husband; Jake is a compassionate man but he does not feel at all guilty about trying to steal another man’s wife; and Twila, jaded and hardened as she is by life, is still a good woman.

Tom’s Wife is further strengthened by the fact that Cash used the Arkansas farm of her own grandparents as the book’s setting.  Her intimate knowledge of the farm’s physical layout, the lifestyle associated with a farm of that period, and the people who lived around it, add another degree of authenticity to the story she tells. 

Rated at: 4.0

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)


  1. Oh, Sam -- you're killing me! You've been coming out with such tantalizing reviews this past month. Have mercy...wait, what am I saying?

    Of course when I saw "Arkansas" and "Cash" I wondered if the author is related to *that* family.

  2. This sounds like a satisfying read. Annie sounds like one tough woman!

  3. Susan, as big a fan of Cash as I am, the connection managed to slip through my fingers.

    Thanks to Cameron for letting us know that you are, indeed, correct.

    Kathleen...she's a tough one, alright, but she is severely tested.

  4. Thanks for the information, Cameron. That makes me want to read the book even more.