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Harpsong by Rilla Askew
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I discovered this gem while searching through the Willa Cather Western literature prize winners. The setting is the Dust Bowl Depression era of Oklahoma. The novel tells the story of Harlan Singer, a wandering harmonica player who rides the rails along with his young wife. It is a beautiful love story with deep themes of hardship and sin. The dust jacket tells us that "Harpsong shows what happened not to Steinbeck's Okies who fled to California, but to the friends and neighbors the Joads left behind." I highly recommend this novel to fans of The Grapes of Wrath and the nonfiction National Book Award winner The Worst Hard Time. ( )
2 vote GCPLreader | Oct 18, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0806138238, Hardcover)

Harlan Singer, a harmonica-playing troubadour, shows up in the Thompson family’s yard one morning. He steals their hearts with his music, and their daughter with his charm. Soon he and his fourteen-year-old bride, Sharon, are on the road, two more hobos of the Great Depression, hitchhiking and hopping freights across the Great Plains in search of an old man and the settlement of Harlan’s long-standing debt.

Finding shelter in hobo jungles and Hoovervilles, the newlyweds careen across the 1930s landscape in a giant figure eight with Oklahoma in the middle. Sharon’s growing doubts about her husband’s quest set in motion events that turn Harlan Singer into a hero while blinding her to the dark secret of his journey. A love story infused with history and folk tradition, Harpsong shows what happened to the friends and neighbors Steinbeck’s Joads left behind.

In this moving, redemptive tale inspired by Oklahoma folk heroes, Rilla Askew continues her exploration of the American story. Harpsong is a novel of love and loss, of adventure and renewal, and of a wayfaring orphan’s search for home—all set to the sounds of Harlan’s harmonica. It shows us the strength and resilience of a people who, in the face of unending despair, maintain their faith in the land.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:46 -0400)

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