Sunday, October 28, 2012

THE SKY TOOK HIM by Donis Casey

[Martha] leaned forward a little to scrutinize her image [in the mirror] more closely. The same face she had just seen on [her mother] downstairs was staring back at her.

“It’s like we’re all the same, woman,” she said aloud. “Suddenly, she was struck with the idea that she was standing at the very end of a long, unbroken line of women that went all the way back to Eve, all with one great soul, moving forward through time.”

This was her time. And her responsibility too, to the line of women who would come after her, to move that woman's soul into the twentieth century.

Donis Casey’s The Sky Took Him is a family story.

It is 1915. Alafair Tucker, her oldest daughter Martha, and her youngest daughter Grace, leave their farm in Boynton, Oklahoma. They go to Enid to be with Alafair’s younger sister Ruth.

Ruth’s husband is dying. Ruth’s son-in-law Kenneth has disappeared.

Using her intuitive knowledge of the dead, Alafair leads authorities to the murdered Kenneth.

Alafair's youngest daughter  two-year-old Grace shares her mother's skill of seeing the dead.  She sees Kenneth in the sky. She says of Kenneth, "The sky took him."

Kenneth had invested in the recent oil boom. He had shady partners including one man who is a long-time family enemy.

Kenneth was addicted to absinth, the designer drug of the day. And the whole story takes place during Enid’s annual celebration of the Oklahoma land run.

In other words, Casey fills this book with Oklahoma history. The book also has an intriguing mystery. The mystery emphasizes the power and strength of rural women.

Despite herself, Martha falls in love along the way. It is Martha’s plan to be a single working woman. She feels obligated to care for her parents as they age. But her mother Alafair Tucker and fate help Martha see things in a different way.

As is often the case with Donis Casey books, this book’s ending surprises.

I find it hard to say enough good things about The Sky Took Him. For one thing, the book had special meaning for me. We lived in Enid, Oklahoma, for three years in the early 1980s. We watched the oil industry ebb and flow. In my mind’s eye, I could still see the later 20th century incarnations of some places and things Casey describes.  

Casey’s books always include a short historical appendix. They also contain recipes for the food described in each novel.

I am grateful I found these books. I’m glad I have more still to read. Casey tells her stories well.

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