Broken Ground

A Novel

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Pub Date 03 May 2016 | Archive Date 11 Aug 2023


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.
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 ...

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Average rating from 19 members

Featured Reviews

A compelling story of a young woman's life during the height of the Great Depression!

Told from Ruth's perspective as she experiences both terrible tragedy and hard won triumphs, the author gives a glimpse of the difficulties many people shared during the time. Well-written with a variety of characters, it's easy to get lost in the era and get a real sense of the hardships, prejudices, and edge of the seat living of the hardworking people who migrated to California, hoping for work and a better life. The author does a good job of conveying what Ruth is thinking and feeling, as she tries to make sense of her life. As she digs for the "whys"-- the unofficial reports of events unfolding around her--I could relate to the confusion and strong sense of injustice she felt, especially in the migrant workers camp. The bond of friendships, faith, family and love woven into Ruth's story added the much needed message of hope to the difficulties she faced. Thomas Everly's character grew on me, especially after reading more of his background in the prequel, Good Harvest; he overcame a lot of his own personal prejudice and bitterness to become a better man. He was an admirable struggling hero, a real champion for the people he lived among and served.

I was especially interested in reading this book when I saw how it crisscrossed my own family's history. It made the story feel that much more personal to me and was easy to picture the areas described. My parents were born in the Los Angeles area in 1930, one set of grandparents having moved there from the Texas oil fields as young marrieds. My dad grew up in Pasadena, also attending a college there later like Ruth. I've been on the old bridge over the Arroyo Seco, seen the growing fields of the San Gabriel and San Joaquin Valleys, and grown up hearing Spanish spoken along with English. The struggles for better living conditions and more humane treatment of farm laborers was a hot issue even into the next generation. It was an eye opener to realize just how bad it was for them all in the 1930's. I gained a new respect for all of the different people who lived the real life story.

Recommend to readers who enjoy historical fiction with a bit more realism. The prequel Good Harvest was helpful to read also to understand more of Thomas Everly's backstory. (Warning for sensitive readers, includes a little swearing and violence.) 4.5 stars
(Book provided by NetGalley and publisher in exchange for my honest, original review.)

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