Review of Windborne by Bobby Underwood

Bobby Underwood is an American now living in the Snowy Mountains of Australia with his lovely wife, Barbara, also an author, and their dog, Cisco. They live in the Snowy Ways town of Tumut, situated along the Tumut River. “Resting Place by the River” is the Aboriginal meaning of the town’s name.

The author is a respected film buff and his reviews for classic films of the 1930s and 1940s have garnered many favorable comments over the years. His Amazon reviews for Mrs. Miniver and The Bishop’s Wife were quoted in the Saturday Evening Post of Nov/Dec 2006.

He has written in several genres and prefers to think of himself as a storyteller, rather than be pigeon-holed. He believes any story well-told, in whatever genre, will transcend that genre and become a memorable story.

In addition to being the author of the sensual Matt Ransom crime series set in the 22nd century, the humorous Sheriff Jace Wilkinson stories set in rural Idaho, the Wild Country old-fashioned western trilogy, the Nostalgia Crime series set in the 1940s, the new modern-day Seth Halliday mystery/crime series, the Tales of the Night Collections (After Closing Time and Where Lonely Lives), and the romantic fantasy collection, Lovers’ Tide, he has also written three otherworldly romance novellas, and a nostalgic Christmas novella, Grover’s Creek. His latest work is a nine-story collection of old-fashioned mystery and suspense tales which pay homage to writers like Cornell Woolrich and Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner and James M. Cain, and one of the greatest of all radio programs from the golden age, Suspense. It is called The Unlocked Window.

The following is his review of my fictional memoir, Windborne.

Heartfelt and at times quietly moving, this memoir-like work of fiction uses the tapestry of one family in the Flint Hills of Kansas and their struggles, triumphs and tragedies over decades to paint a portrait of a country as it grows and changes with the world around it. Wanda DeHaven Pyle uses a fast-flowing narrative more than dialog to cover much ground within only a few chapters or pages, yet there exists an intimacy, as though we the reader are being offered a view from heaven of this particular family and the decisions which shaped their future and those of successive generations.

Those who have read Catherine Marshall’s Christy, or Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Cross Creek will hear echoes of those two voices in the author’s deceptively readable narrative. Almost a Walton’s type of atmosphere contains many tender and poignant moments as readers become involved in the plight of this family from the very onset. We feel a tender connection to Virginia as she bestows upon her sister the love her mother is unable to give. That connection between reader and narrative continues without waver as Virginia must move forward and leave her family behind in order to teach; a decision which will reverberate through the coming decades.

It is perhaps when Virginia meets Will, however, that the die is cast for following generations. Though there are many moments of poignancy within the narrative, none are more telling than Virginia’s and Jack’s, giving a vivid picture of a place and time in America. When Virginia walks through her classroom for the final time because her marriage to Will has restricted her from teaching, we feel deeply for this woman whose time has not yet come, and won’t until Leah. But for me, it is Jack’s story, covering the war years and the aftermath of coming home which most touched me. There is no way to read this book and ever forget what sacrifices were made during the war, many of them not brought to fruition until years had passed.

As with all families placed under a microscope for decades, there is love and tragedy, triumphs and poor decision-making, and a spirit passed on to succeeding generations. Spanning the time period in America from 1910-1985 there is sort of a Studs Terkel feel to the history we are seeing through the lives of this family over generations. Yet where Terkel’s history is oral, by using narrative rather than dialog for the most part, here, we get something nearly cinematic. Reading Windborne is tantamount to watching a film spanning decades in the lives of one family, providing us not only a portrait of them, but also the country in which they lived. All of this makes for a fabulous and memorable read.

I highly recommend it for those who enjoy memoirs and history. In its intimacy Wanda DeHaven Pyle has managed to give us a panorama of a time and place, and a nation. Great stuff.

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