The Edge of Nowhere
Originally published in 2015, C.H. Armstrong’s The Edge of Nowhere is a historical novel loosely based on the life of the author’s grandmother. The novel offers the reader a peek into a time and place in American history not usually captured in today’s fiction, and I’m glad I chose to pick it up.
The novel opens in 1992, and our heroine, Victoria, is dying, but before she takes her last breath, she wants to share some things about her past that her grandchildren don’t know. They see her as a cold, unfeeling old woman, and she’s hoping learning about her life will help them view her in a better light.
We then jump back in time to the mid 1920s. Victoria’s mother takes her own life after giving birth to a stillborn child, and her father, unable to cope with the loss of his wife, descends into a dark pit of depression. When he dies in suspicious circumstances, leaving Victoria alone on the family farm, she is taken in by a local midwife and raised alongside the midwife’s own daughter. Victoria loves her adoptive family deeply, but she’s determined never to fall victim to romantic love, seeing it as something that will make her weak. But when she meets the handsome and hard-working Will, she begins to believe there just might be room for love in her life after all.
She and Will eventually marry, and Victoria adjusts well to married life. She has some understandable fear around giving birth to children, but she manages to push her misgivings aside in order to raise a family with the man she loves. The reader thinks Victoria has finally found happiness, but it’s unfortunately short-lived, and Will dies as a result of illness.
Now a widow with several children to care for, Victoria reverts back to the colder, harder version of herself that protected her so well after the loss of her parents. She and her children are poor, but Victoria is determined to keep food on their table and a roof over their heads, even if she has to make some terrible sacrifices in order to ensure their survival.
What follows is the gritty story of one woman’s desperate fight for survival amidst the dust storms and overwhelming poverty of 1930s Oklahoma. If you’re looking for a story that’s full of sunshine and rainbows, The Edge of Nowhere won’t be the book for you, but, if you love reading about strong-willed heroines who will stop at nothing to provide for those she loves, you’ll definitely want to give it a try.
Victoria isn’t the kind of heroine who will appeal to all readers. She’s not soft-spoken and biddable, and neither does she give into her emotions easily. Her steady determination to keep her family together in the face of terrible tragedy struck me as being quite laudable, but her prickly nature might be a turnoff for those who prefer a different kind of heroine.
There are some rather graphic descriptions of domestic violence in the second half of the novel. I found them incredibly difficult to read, but these scenes added an extra layer of authenticity to the story of Victoria’s life – and they were never sensationalized in an attempt to shock the reader. Instead, they felt very real, and I was able to understand how Victoria could have found herself in such an untenable position.
Make sure to have plenty of tissues handy as you read; I cried several times while reading this book. Victoria and her children went through some awful things, and I often found myself wondering how they could possibly deal with one more tragic event.
This is an intense read, one you might have to step away from at times; I normally love to completely immerse myself in the pages of a book, but I needed to take a few breaks from this one. The subject matter is extremely heavy, and while I’m pleased to have read The Edge of Nowhere, it’s not a book I can imagine myself rereading.