A Sandhills Ballad
By Ladette Randolph
(University of New Mexico Press, Hardcover, 9780826346858, 343pp.)
Publication Date: April 2009
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After her life as she knows it is ended by heartbreak, Mary Rasmussen, a strong-willed and independent young ranch woman living in the Sandhills of western Nebraska, suddenly feels that all she has believed in--God, her instincts, the land itself--has failed her, and she abandons her cultural and emotional ties, succumbing to circumstances she thinks she is powerless to control. In a rash decision, she marries a conservative, patriarchal preacher who doesn't understand Mary, the ranching community, or anything beyond his own beliefs.
"This is good, old-fashioned storytelling at its best, and Mary Rasmussen will live forever in your hearts as a young woman who faces enormous tests and survives in order to protect those she loves. Stubborn, determined, and loyal, Mary makes a life that requires both imagination and grit and you end up rooting for her every inch of the way.
"Randolph is revisioning the American plains in this novel, telling the stories of the women who struggle side-by-side with men on their Sandhills ranches and in their small towns. These are people of great courage and even greater integrity, who love and lose and love again, as undaunted as their pioneer forebears in their efforts to make a life for themselves and future generations. . . .
"Randolph writes truthfully of the Nebraska Sandhills, a harsh land that exacts a brutal price for those who choose to love it. Having lived there, one never truly leaves, as Mary Rasmussen discovers, it etches its beautiful scar on body and soul."--Jonis Agee, author of "The River Wife"
"With penetrating insight and solid authority on the rural West, Ladette Randolph has carved out a compelling saga of a young woman ripening into maturity. You cannot help but cheer for Mary Rasmussen. Randolph's work is tough, tender, and brave, a pitch-perfect take on the hard beauty of life on the Nebraska prairie."--Pamela Carter Joern, author of "The Floor of the Sky" and "The Plain Sense of Things"
""A Sandhills Ballad" is a poignantly written, lovely novel of the heartland that honors the best traditions of storytelling."--Jim Harrison, author of "The English Major" and "Legends of the Fall"
"I began reading "A Sandhills Ballad" in the afternoon and found myself, at three in the morning, finishing the last page. Mary's story is at once sad and brave, tender and compelling. Ladette Randolph knows well the rhythms and variations of life in Nebraska's Sandhills, where men and women face loss without complaint and celebrate their days with a love of family and land and community that runs like a quiet stream beneath the seamless prose of this novel."--Mary Clearman Blew, author of "Jackalope Dreams" and winner of many awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western Literature Association