I received a free copy of Broken Ground for my honest review.
About the Book:
When a young oil rig widow escapes her grief and the Texas Dust Bowl, she discovers a surprising future—and new passion—awaiting her in California in this lyrically written romance by the author of Sing for Me.
Newly married to her childhood sweetheart, twenty-one-year-old Ruth Warren is settling into life in a Depression-era, East Texas oil town. She’s making a home when she learns that her young husband, Charlie, has been killed in an oil rig accident. Ruth is devastated, but then gets a chance for a fresh start: a scholarship from a college in Pasadena, CA. Ruth decides to take a risk and travel west, to pursue her one remaining dream to become a teacher.
At college Ruth tries to fit into campus life, but her grief holds her back. When she spends Christmas with some old family friends, she meets the striking and compelling Thomas Everly, whose own losses and struggles have instilled in him a commitment to social justice, and led him to work with Mexican migrant farmworkers in a camp just east of Los Angeles. With Thomas, Ruth sees another side of town, and another side of current events: the numerous forced deportations without due process of Mexicans, along with United States citizens of Mexican descent.
After Ruth is forced to leave school, she goes to visit Thomas and sees that he has cobbled together a night school for the farmworkers’ children. Ruth begins to work with the children, and establishes deep friendships with people in the camp. When the camp is raided and the workers and their families are rounded up and shipped back to Mexico, Ruth and Thomas decide to take a stand for the workers’ rights—all while promising to love and cherish one another.
You can read an excerpt of Broken Ground
About the Author:
Karen Halvorsen Schreck is the author of three previous novels, Sing for Me, Dream Journal, and While He Was Away. She received her doctorate in English and Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her short stories and articles have appeared in Literal Latté, Other Voices, Image, as well as other literary journals and magazines, and have received various awards, including a Pushcart Prize, an Illinois State Arts Council Grant, and in 2009, first prize awards for memoir and devotional magazine writing from the Evangelical Press Association. A freelance writer and frequent visiting professor of English at Wheaton College, Karen lives with her husband and two children in Wheaton, Illinois.
This book opens with an air of despair. Given it takes place as the Depression is impacting the mid-West and the dustbowl conditions that hurt so many farmers drove people away from their lifelong homes. Ruth has just married her childhood sweetheart and moved to the oilfields of Texas where her husband Charlie has a job. They don’t have much but they are deeply in love. As she settles into her life there and starts to dream of a future it all blows up – literally as her husband is killed in an accident. Ruth suddenly finds herself back at home, drifting, unsure of what to do with her life.
Her one friend in her hometown in Oklahoma, the librarian, had encouraged both Ruth and her husband to apply to college before they got married and left for Texas. When Ruth starts to come out of her funk she goes back to the library where she finds that not only has she been accepted to college but that she has a full scholarship. Ruth decided to go over the objections of her father. Her mother is thrilled for her and as she leaves for California for school she gives her the address of an old friend to look up.
Ruth gets to college and she meets her mother’s old friends but all does not go quite as she plans. It is in meeting the son of her mother’s friends that her education truly begins because he shows her what is really going on in the world. He educates her about “repatriation” and the forced deportation of immigrant workers – many in the country legally and quite a few who are American citizens. It is sold to the public as best for all but is it?
I have to admit that I had no idea about this practice that resonates so closely to today’s attitudes towards migrant workers whether they are here legally or not. This country seems to have a long history of acting poorly to people of color. I do love when a book teaches me something new and sends me off on a search for more information.
The story is good one. There are some convenient turns to help move the plot but nothing egregious. The characters are interesting and develop over the course of the novel. I found it hard to leave the story behind. I’ve been fortunate in my reading lately. This is a book that probably deserves a second read.