Review: Coyote Winds by Helen Sedwick

 

 

Title:  Coyote Winds

Author: Helen Sedwick

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

COYOTE WINDS is an historical novel set on the western prairie in the years before the Dust Bowl, a time of optimism and confidence, a time when a man was measured by what he produced, not what he could buy. It explores the American can-do spirit that drew people to this wind-swept frontier and the consequences of that spirit. It asks whether that spirit survives today.

Lexile Score HL 690 (high low book); Honorable Mention 2013 Green Book Festival Award for Young Adult Fiction.

Summary: When thirteen-year old Myles brings home a coyote pup half-blinded by a dust storm, his father warns him a coyote can’t be trusted. His neighbor loads his rifle and takes aim. Yet Myles is determined to tame the pup just as his father is taming the land. The time is 1930. Tractors and fertilizers are transforming the prairie into the world’s breadbasket. The American dream is within every man’s reach. But when drought turns these dreams into paint-stripping, crop-killing dust, Myles wonders if they have made a mistake trying to tame what should be wild.

Seventy years later, when Andy remembers his Grandpa Myles’s tales about growing up on the prairie, he wonders what stories he will tell when he has grandchildren. Algebra, soccer practice, computer games, the mall? Determined to keep his grandfather’s memories alive and have some adventures of his own, Andy heads out to discover what’s left of the wild prairie.

Inspired by her father’s tales of growing up during the Dust Bowl, Sedwick weaves insight, humor, historical details and unforgettable characters into a coming-of-age story that reminds us that chasing a dream, even if it brings heartache, is far better than not dreaming at all.


Review:

I am fascinated with history, so when I was contacted to review Coyote Winds, I jumped at the chance.  The story is told through alternating POVs (including a coyote’s), and Myles is experiencing the Dust Bowl first hand.  His grandson, Andy, is desperately trying to understand his grandfather’s stories of life on the prairie.  Andy feels like he is nothing but a disappointment to his overachieving attorney parents, and he is struggling in school.  He can’t seem to connect with his peers or his classes.  After his grandfather’s death leaves a hole the size of the prairie in his heart, Andy attempts to reconcile his grandfather’s tales with what life on the prairie in the 1930s was really like.  Conflicting accounts his great aunt told his mother puzzle him, and for a boy who didn’t like reading, Andy was suddenly all about researching what his grandfather and his family endured on their homestead.  I loved how Andy kept insisting that it’s his story, too, and his mother’s story, after she shuts down and doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

It took me a while to warm up to Andy and his segments of the story.  But before I knew it, I was invested in the lives of all of the characters in Coyote Winds.  By the end of the book, I shocked by how much I had come to like them.  The more I think about it, the more moved I am by this story.  It is raw and uncompromising at times, and Myles’ accounts of his childhood experiences are unflinchingly truthful.  From brutal rabbit hunts to disputes with the neighbor over proper farming techniques, Myles’ narrative POV is both unemotional and free of embellishment.  He’s just telling it like it is.  As he begins to realize how primitive life on the farm is, with no electricity or running water, he begins to question his father’s dedication to farming.  Is he just stubborn?  Can’t he see how difficult life in the middle of no where is, and how unhappy his mother and sister are?  While Myles loves the land, he longs for something more.

Ro, the coyote pup Myles rescues after a dust storm, also shares the story through his eyes. His point of view didn’t work as well for me, because I was so stressed that Bad Things would happen to him.  His chapters left me sad and depressed, because he kept longing for the things he would never have; a life among his own kind, and his brothers and sisters to play with.  His human pack didn’t understand him, and when Myles, in an effort to protect both his friend and Ro, chases him off, my heart broke for the little guy.

By the end of the book I was sobbing.  I don’t know why, other than each character had come to life for me, and had come to mean something to me.  Even the people I thought I couldn’t stand had shining moments of insight that made me understand their stance on farming and raising their families.  This is a book of broken dreams, but it’s also a story of  hope and the courage to attempt to make changes in your life.  While the farmland was harsh to Myles and his family, it was healing to Andy and his parents, and brought them closer together.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by the author

Interview with Helen Sedwick, Author of Coyote Winds and Giveaway!

Please welcome Helen Sedwick to the virtual offices today.  Helen’s novel, Coyote Winds, is set during one of the most devastating environmental calamities to befall the Midwest.  I find the Dust Bowl, and all of the heartbreaking challenges it presented, fascinating, so I am thrilled to have Helen here for a chat.  After the interview, please enter for a chance to win a copy of Coyote Winds!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Helen Sedwick] An intense redhead who’s spent her life balancing restlessness and responsibility.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Coyote Winds?

[Helen Sedwick] COYOTE WINDS follows the adventures of a boy and his coyote living on the prairie in the years leading up to the Dust Bowl. It explores the American spirit that drew families to the wind-swept frontier and the consequences of that spirit, both good and bad. And it asks whether that spirit can survive the over-supervised life of a modern boy.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Helen Sedwick] I was inspired to write COYOTE WINDS by my father’s stories of growing up during the Dust Bowl. While there was plenty of blowing dust in his stories, he also talked about freedom and adventure. With the schools closed, he spent his days hunting rattlesnakes and rabbits. And driving at the age of 9. I wanted to contrast my father’s unfenced boyhood with the over-supervised life of a modern, suburban boy who “couldn’t ride a bike without a helmet, play soccer without pads, or ride in a car with a driver under thirty.”

As I researched the Dust Bowl, I discovered that it is a classic story about American optimism. Our can-do attitude drew families to the prairie with dreams of owning their own land. They plowed up millions of acres of native grassland. Then the wind did what it always did–blow. What followed was one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history, the Dust Bowl. COYOTE WINDS is about good families doing what they believed to be the right thing, only to have the results turn out so terribly wrong. I wanted to tell that story.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Myles?

[Helen Sedwick] Fun-loving, school-skipping punster.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Andy had a theme song, what would it be?

[Helen Sedwick] NO SUCH THING by John Mayer

“They love to tell you
Stay inside the lines
But something’s better
On the other side.”

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Myles is never without.

[Helen Sedwick] His Remington .22 rifle.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Andy’s pockets?

[Helen Sedwick] Andy is a 21st century suburban boy trapped in a life of rules.

At the beginning of the novel, he wouldn’t have a pen knife (too dangerous), an arrowhead (politically incorrect), or car keys (not until he has a B average, which means no time soon).

By the end of the novel, he has all three in his pockets.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Myles’s greatest regret?

[Helen Sedwick] Trying to chop off the head of a live rattlesnake.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Helen Sedwick] I love the power of a story to make us laugh, cry, learn, believe, and connect with others over distance and time. Whenever I experience a new story, whether it be in a book, a film, or a play, I am inspired to write more.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Helen Sedwick] Characters I love.

A vague yearning to express.

Time alone.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Helen Sedwick] Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Helen Sedwick] Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. If this 19th Century novel could move a 20th Century Manhattan girl, that says something.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Helen Sedwick] Hike the granite outcroppings of the Sierras.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Helen Sedwick] My website: www.helensedwick.com

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/helensedwickauthor

I also welcome emails at Helen@helensedwick.com.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Here’s the trailer for the book:

GIVEAWAY TIME!

Ready for your chance to win a copy of Coyote Winds? Just will out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following. US addresses only, please.

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About the book:

When thirteen-year old Myles brings home a coyote pup half-blinded by a dust storm, his father warns him a coyote can’t be trusted. His neighbor loads his rifle and takes aim. Yet Myles is determined to tame the pup just as his father is taming the land. The time is 1930. Tractors and fertilizers are transforming the prairie into the world’s breadbasket. The American dream is within every man’s reach. But when drought turns these dreams into paint-stripping, crop-killing dust, Myles wonders if they have made a mistake trying to tame the untamable. Seventy years later, when Andy remembers his Grandpa Myles’s tales about growing up on the prairie, he wonders what stories he will tell when he has grandchildren. Algebra, soccer practice, computer games, the mall? Determined to keep his grandfather’s memories alive and have some adventures of his own, Andy heads out to discover what’s left of the wild prairie. Inspired by her father’s tales of growing up during the Dust Bowl, Sedwick weaves insight, humor, historical details and unforgettable characters into a coming-of-age story that reminds us that chasing a dream, even if it brings heartache, is far better than not dreaming at all.

 

About the Author:

Helen Sedwick is the author of COYOTE WINDS. A finalist in the 2011 Mainstream Fiction Writer’s Digest Competition and the Lorian Hemmingway Short Story Contest, Helen Sedwick recently won second place in the Redwood Writers Flash Fiction Contest for a piece adapted from COYOTE WINDS. She is a lawyer and lives in the Sonoma wine country with Howard Klepper, a builder of handcrafted guitars, and an exuberant hound dog named Farlow. For more info, http://www.helensedwick.com.