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What the Thunder Said: A Novella and Stories    by Janet Peery order for
What the Thunder Said
by Janet Peery
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

This book of linked stories tells much about conditions in the Dust Bowl Era from 1931-1939 in Oklahoma. The sense of place is palpable throughout. But even more, Peery tells the stories of characters who are very real. No matter what their age, gender, or social standing is, their conversation works, their thoughts and writings seem to be those of people who must have lived in that time of parched landscapes and hopes. Author Janet Peery gets them just exactly right.

We start out with a ninety-year-old looking back on a life that he tried to make right, on a secret that could never be told and on two daughters whom, despite his best efforts, he drove away. Further along are stories that fill us in on what happened to the daughters and their children. Real people stand out from these pages: a boy who too early would be a man, an elderly judge who has seen death one time too many, a young woman who must learn what love is and what it isn't, a woman too old to pay attention at a book club meeting but who can still tell a powerful story.

We are in the hands of a masterful storyteller, an author who is unafraid to take on life as her characters must have lived it. What the Thunder Said is Peery's third work. The first was a book of short stories, Alligator Dance, and the second, The River Beyond the World, a novel set in the border country between Texas and Mexico and a nominee for the 1996 National Book Award. I am adding them both to my list of must reads.

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