BIRDS! Finally, after a bit of a drought, we have birds! The very first paragraphs of The Echo Maker by Richard Powers include some wonderful descriptions of the sandhill cranes that migrate through Nebraska each year, stopping along the Platte River, and feeding on the remains of the harvested field corn and soybeans. They float […]

Wow! Haven’s Wake by Ladette Randolph (2013) was phenomenal for my reading challenge. I’m reading my way across the USA, focusing on books with a strong sense of place that help me “get to know” each state–the landscape, the people, the culture, the history. Haven’s Wake was a perfect choice for Nebraska. That year the […]

As I worked my way through my picks for Kansas, I began to wonder about the differences between Kansas and its neighboring states, and I decided to stay in the area for a while longer. So I’m going to be reading Nebraska next. I was also interested in the “bleakness” and “mean spirit” I saw […]

The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard (2006) was a definite winner, at least in terms of learning about Kansas. While Becky Mandelbaum’s Bad Kansas left me full of bleakness, Nancy Pickard’s Kansas gave me some hope. Not that she was all rosy about the state–there were plenty of descriptions of that bleakness. He […]

“It’s either school, a job, or a girl,” she said. “Or death. Those are the only reasons for coming to Kansas. Unless you’re born here, of course. Then it’s a matter of escaping.” This seems to be the consensus among many of the characters in Becky Mandelbaum’s Bad Kansas: Stories (2017), which won the Flannery […]