The Edge of Nowhere, 2nd edition
By C.H. Armstrong
Penner Publishing, 2015 (1st edition)
C.H. Armstrong’s The Edge of Nowhere is set in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl days of the “Dirty Thirties.” The protagonist is a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners spitfire named Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene.
Victoria is a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks. Now elderly, she has a tumor on her pancreas. So the novel opens with a letter. It’s penned by Victoria and addressed to her grandchildren. Dated November 12, 1992, the epistle begins:
“I know you refer to me as ‘the meanest woman you’ve ever known.’”
The rest of the book – 261 pages – fills in the blanks. What emerges is the fictionalized story of a woman who refused to be a victim.
Here are 5 Reasons Why The Edge of Nowhere Will Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat:
- It’s an historical novel loosely based on the life of the author’s grandmother
- The clever opening grabs the reader and draws them in. We can’t help but wonder what happened to this woman to make her so ‘hostile and overbearing.’ What’s her back story? What “secrets” has Victoria kept hidden for the last fifty years? Will she spill them?
- The cover art isn’t an accident. Black-eyed Susans matter in this novel.
- The story is told in the first person
- Briskly paced, this gripping story of courage and resilience will have you asking “Then what?” until the final page. I couldn’t put it down!
We first meet Victoria at age 8. She’s decorating the family Christmas tree with her mother, who’s pregnant. It’s a warm, jovial scene straight out of Norman Rockwell.
When the baby is stillborn a few days later, Victoria’s mom slides into a deep depression that ends in suicide. Young Victoria discovers her mom’s dead body. Her father seeks relief from a bottle. He soon winds up dead.
Newly orphaned at age eight, Victoria fends for herself until some concerned neighbors finally break down the door of her house, find her, and take her in. Mother Elizabeth, Father Caleb and their daughter Julianne become Victoria’s loving second family.
Haunted by the memory of her biological mother and father and how much she lost at a tender age, Victoria decides she’ll never love anyone again. Because love makes you weak.
Victoria isn’t weak.
But when a widower with five children comes a-courtin’, Victoria surprises herself and everyone else by accepting his sudden marriage proposal. What started as a marriage of convenience becomes a true love match for Will and Victoria Harrison. She’s now a farmer’s wife and mother of five. Four more children eventually round out the Harrison family.
Hard Times and Hard Choices
Then Will dies from a ruptured appendix. His sudden death leaves Victoria with nine children to feed and clothe, a note coming due on their farm, and no money.
Then the The Great Depression and the Oklahoma Dust Bowl hit. Desperate, Victoria must make some hard choices. Choices that make her the prickly, austere matriarch she is today.
A Riveting Tale
Told in the first person from Victoria’s POV, The Edge of Nowhere is a riveting tale of extraordinary courage and resourcefulness in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. (There are also some complete jerks in the soup, too. Hi, Imogene and Gene. But let’s not give everything away, okay?)
Taut and gripping, the story is peopled with realistic, three- dimensional characters. A central theme, voiced by Victoria, is:
“This is what family does.”
And Victoria does plenty to keep her family together in the face of overwhelming adversity and personal tragedy. When others fold, she digs deep to do whatever it takes to put food on the table and keep her family intact.
What’s In a Name?
Alert readers will note that the name of the protagonist isn’t a matter of happenstance. It’s a deliberate choice by the author. Victoria never stops fighting until she wins.
If you enjoy historical fiction and a triumphant, edgy story of family dynamics and personal survival against the odds, you’ll enjoy The Edge of Nowhere. If you’re allergic to dust, maybe not.
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What’s the last book you read into the wee hours? The one that was so good, you couldn’t put it down until The End?