This novel beams us back into the American Hobo-Age and Tinsel Town’s “best” years.
I love to immerse myself in worlds different from mine – times and mores are a great delight to explore, they provide an intellectual challenge and engage the inquiring mind. No wonder, I love scifi, fantasy and of course a good historical novel. When I saw that a new book by Robbi McCoy, an accomplished writer of lesbian romances, was announced where she explores the 1940s / 1950s in the US it was a simple choice of „must read“ and it was, if I may say so, an excellent and highly entertaining choice. It’s focus is more on the historical side than on romance though there is one.
The South and her father are not kind to Shirley Hopper. White, but definitely born at the wrong side oft he tracks. Taking the road and living the life of a hobo seems her only safe option, at least safer than home. Called „Mutt“ by her fellow wanderers she travels the trains of America in the 1940’s. Then sleeping in a barn somewhere in Nebraska she has her first though very brief encounter with the farmer’s daughter „Annie“ who has her own dreams far from a farmer’s lot. Many years later they meet again, in Tinsel Town. Mutt is edging out her living and Annie is living a life of glamour.
Before I read The Farmer’s Daughter I had heard of American Hobos but never explored this subculture. McCoy brilliantly describes their way of life and the story is sprinkled with references which vividly bring home what it was like to live that way. This is research as it should be done and historical fiction at its best. Another important aspect of the novel is what it was like to live as a lesbian – be it poor or rich. Most of us e.g. have heard of the McCarthy witchhunt and of beards in the history of Hollywood actors and actresses. Again McCoy weaves this seemlessly into her story and educates us about our herstory. And the South and its allure to those who were born there, ah, how she captures its spirit! And how she captures the promise and hope. But enough said. Spoilers are not allowed.
McCoy’s writing style is rich and evocative. A great joy to read. With a few sentences the Southern summer, the spring or whatever she sets her pen to come alive and engage all senses. The characters are multi-dimensional and engaging. And not only does the novel do a „full turn“, but Mutt’s life as well. Where there was despair hope prevails.
The novel starts with Mutt looking back, way back on her life and there it ends. And reading this book you wonder what you will have accomplished, what the generations to come will have to say about you and what kind of mark if any you will leave in the flow of times. This novel is a book of personal triumph, a novel reflecting the changes in the US and there is a pinch of romance wrapped into it.