Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tumbleweeds: A Novel - Leila Meacham

Date Started: 3/13/15
Date Finished: 3/18/15

I saw this book at a Half Price Books and thought it looked interesting. Given how obsessed I am with getting books for free from the library though my Kindle, I figured I'd check and see if this one was available. Hooray - it was!

Ok, per usual, here is the official book blurb.

Recently orphaned, eleven-year-old Cathy Benson feels she has been dropped into a cultural and intellectual wasteland when she is forced to move from her academically privileged life in California to the small town of Kersey in the Texas Panhandle where the sport of football reigns supreme. She is quickly taken under the unlikely wings of up-and-coming gridiron stars and classmates John Caldwell and Trey Don Hall, orphans like herself, with whom she forms a friendship and eventual love triangle that will determine the course of the rest of their lives. Taking the three friends through their growing up years until their high school graduations when several tragic events uproot and break them apart, the novel expands to follow their careers and futures until they reunite in Kersey at forty years of age. Told with all of Meacham's signature drama, unforgettable characters, and plot twists, readers will be turning the pages, desperate to learn how it all plays out.

Spoilers ahead:

I read somewhere that this was a sweeping book - like Gone With the Wind. That's a tough comparison to make - and while I don't think this is on the level of GWTW (which yes, I have read, thank you very much), I agree that it was sweeping in scope and very well written.

The book centers on the triangle of Cathy, John and TD though we get different perspectives throughout. The majority of the book takes place in Kersey, a desolate small town in the Texas Panhandle where the threesome grow up.

The short summary of things here is that, through a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings (mixed in with a murder), the threesome of Cathy, John and TD are forever linked and yet torn apart at the same time. Now on to the long summary...ready...

John is the good-guy here. TD is the trouble-maker. The two of them accidentally kill a guy from a neighboring school when TD's plan to prank the mascot goes awry. They make it look like a sick sexual accident and escape unscathed - though this will forever change the direction of their lives. Well, that and the fact that John and Cathy get close enough to get pregnant when TD breaks up with her for s millisecond. TD knows the baby isn't his, since he's sterile from a bout with the mumps. Cathy and John have no idea the baby is John's, however, as she was black-out drunk and technically they didn't have sex (note: I didn't feel like this was adequately explained in the book but clearly we are made to understand that everything was consensual until Cathy said TD's name at which point John leaps away from her, sure that nothing like sex has actually happened). TD never corrects their understanding that the baby is his, so he essentially looks like the ass who abandoned his sweetheart and baby when he leaves to play college football (and then in the NFL). He never returns to his hometown until he calls John and tells him he is coming to see his childhood home. We later learn he has come to tell John that he has terminal cancer and he wants to give closure to the parents of the boy he killed in high school. BUT he realizes at the last minute that if he did so, he would reveal John's (minimal) part in the murder, which John - by becoming a Jesuit priest - has worked so hard to overcome. He decides he won't say anything and is leaving town when he is shot and killed. But by who? The son who thought his father abandoned him his whole life? Cathy, who held a grudge all those years? John confesses to the killing to save Cathy and his son (they both know now he is theirs) but the sheriff realizes who actually did it - the former football coach who believed that TD was the father of his deceased daughter's baby (she died post abortion).

Whew. Catch all that? In the end we are left with three people who weren't as happy as they all should have been, though I was glad to see that Cathy and John made peace with their mutual affection for each other and the relationship they would have with their son going forward. Not the best ending but the best this group could have hoped for.

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