256 pages, 9.59 × 6.62 × 1.06 in
February 7, 2006
Random House Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 1400062489
ISBN - 13: 9781400062485
About the Book
The chief book critic for "The Boston Globe" and winner of the Pulitzer Prize beautifully evokes her life, in this exquisite memoir, from her 1950s childhood in the Texas Panhandle through the 1960s and beyond.
Read from the Book
Poised at the heart of so much open land, Amarillo, too,sprawled in a sort of languid disregard, as though territorial hegemonymight make up for all that loneliness. Route 66 cut throughthe center of town as a streamlined reminder of what was outthere to the west, and the trucks roared through town day andnight, slaves to hope and white-line fever, heading for Californiaor just somewhere else. The steak houses and truck stops ateither end of the city confirmed these great distances, offeringtwenty-four-ounce T-bones along with the diesel fuel, and theneon from the all-night signs must have looked from the sky likepaths of light—bright flashes of pink and green and white as thetown grew sparser, flanked on the highway to the east and westalike by miles of open country.Downtown in the 1950s was only a few blocks long, and thetwo banks, the two movie theaters, the Silver Grill Cafeteria, andthe Amarillo Grain Exchange were all within shooting distance ofone another. The Mary E. Bivins Memorial Library stood on theoutskirts of these necessities, on Tenth and Polk, a generous oldGeorgian mansion with two sets of stone steps up to its wide verandas.The place had been built as a private home at the turn ofthe century, and its interiors still held traces of domestic calm—the foyer smelled wonderfully of floor wax and printer’s ink andno doubt years’ worth of muted librarians’ cologne. The bookswere spread luxuriantly over four floors, with the aisles betweenshelves feeling as wide as
From the Publisher
In this exquisitely rendered memoir set on the high plains of Texas, Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell transforms into art what it is like to come of age in a particular time and place. A Strong West Wind begins in the 1950s in the wilds of the Texas Panhandle–a place of both boredom and beauty, its flat horizons broken only by oil derricks, grain elevators, and church steeples. Its story belongs to a girl who grew up surrounded by dust storms and cattle ranches and summer lightning, who took refuge from the vastness of the land and the ever-present wind by retreating into books. What she found there, from renegade women to men who lit out for the territory, turned out to offer a blueprint for her own future. Caldwell would grow up to become a writer, but first she would have to fall in love with a man who was every mother’s nightmare, live through the anguish and fire of the Vietnam years, and defy the father she adored, who had served as a master sergeant in the Second World War.
A Strong West Wind is a memoir of culture and history–of fathers and daughters, of two world wars and the passionate rebellions of the sixties. But it is also about the mythology of place and the evolution of a sensibility: about how literature can shape and even anticipate a life.
Caldwell possesses the extraordinary ability to illuminate the desires, stories, and lives of ordinary people. Written with humanity, urgency, and beautiful restraint, A Strong West Wind is a magical and unforgettable book, destined to become an American classic.
About the Author
Gail Caldwell is the chief book critic for The Boston Globe, where she has been a staff writer and critic since 1985. In 2001, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism. She is also an avid rower. Caldwell lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Advance praise for A Strong West Wind
“I loved A Strong West Wind. [Caldwell] writes of her adventures in the sixties and seventies, and the quest for truth in California, with the authentic voice of the children who once made life hell for the ‘Greatest Generation’ and in the process turned out pretty great themselves.”
“Gail Caldwell’s quiet, burnished memoir is a story of a life’s affections—for her Texas parents, for the sere landscape of the panhandle, and for the road paved with book upon precious book that runs in both directions: far away and home again.”
“Gail Caldwell's book measures the sweep of one life against literature, history, legends of Texas, and the infallible truth of real feeling. This is a brave and moving work.”
“An elegant memoir. Gail Caldwell performs something like alchemy—taking the base metals of the Texas Panhandle badlands and turning them into pure gold.”