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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beyond the Bougainvillea by Dolores Durando

Beyond the Bougainvillea by Dolores Durando
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (260 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 books
Reviewed by Camellia

She found her place in a turbulent era of deep passions, heartbreaking sacrifices, and grand dreams

When scholarly, smart Mary Margaret is sixteen, her father marries her off to a drunken neighbor in return for a tract of land. The year is 1924, and Mary Margaret’s motherless childhood has already been hard as a farm girl on the desolate prairies of North Dakota. Abused and helpless, the new Mrs. “Marge” Garrity seems destined for a tragic fate.

But Marge is determined to make her life count, no matter what. Her escape from her brutal marriage takes her to California, where she struggles to survive the Great Depression and soon answers the lure of the state’s untamed northern half. There, embraced by the rough-and-ready people who built the great Ruck-a-chucky Dam on the American River, she begins to find her true mission in life and the possibility for love and happiness with an Army Corp engineer of Cherokee Indian descent.

This vivid saga of one woman’s life in the early decades of a turbulent century is told from the heart of a true storyteller in the grand tradition of women’s sagas.

Much like the bougainvillea with its beautiful, fragile blooms that conceal vicious thorns, Marge’s life has underlying thorns that tear at her—sometime bodily but more often they tear at her heart and soul. Her strength, ’to keep on keeping on’, in the face of adversity inspires. Her abusive father had often told her, “What’s done is done, get on with it” and Marge uses that advice to survive.

Abused repeatedly by two filthy old drunken men, even before she was seventeen, she accepts help from strangers to escape from her “hell’ in North Dakota and goes to California where others help her also. She gains strength and a strong sense of self as she adjusts and copes with life during the Great Depression. As the story progresses, the reader has the joy of seeing her pay forward the caring and generosity others showed to her when she was in dire need.

Many secondary characters play major roles in Marge’s life. Gangly, seventeen-year-old Ben Olson from Kansas touches a special spot in her heart as she rides the train to California, while Dr. Tom, her benefactor in North Dakota is of immeasurable help to her as is Ruth Gunderson who spirits her away from her abusers and cheers Marge’s actions as she departs for California to live with Ruth’s sister Annie and family.

In California, the reader learns Annie gave up dreams and much of herself for respectability when she married Boots Malone. She caterers to her inflexible husband, Boots and to her spoiled daughter, Susy. The Malones and Boots’ boss, police Captain O’Malley all shepherd Marge along as she learns to cope in a world totally different from her world in North Dakota.

Nina, the Indian woman, and her four hungry, ragged children show Marge how prejudice and vengefulness sap the very humanness out of people. The connection she has with them changes her life and influences her decision to go to northern California.

Cotton Eeagle, the Cherokee Indian engineer that Marge meets after she is a successful business woman, rocks her world and brings her to the heights and depths of emotions, but most of all he gives her the baby girl that fills Marge’s world with joy. Then an indiscretion from the past wreaks havoc with their lives and sends Cotton into a state that shatters their once magical marriage.

Dolores Durando brings a difficult time in American history to life as she recounts Marge’s journey. I felt like I was on the outside looking in a lot of the time, being told about rather than being immersed in the action. Of course, I would have loved spending more time with Marge and her ‘true love’. The foreshadowing of their getting together was seen throughout the book, but how they relate to each other would have been great to read about.

Beyond the Bougainvillea showcases the struggles for survival during the Great Depression while recounting the life of one young woman who persevered with the underlying belief that “What is done is done, get on with it”. Marge’s industry, innate sense of humor, strong sense of justice, and compassion for others, a compassion that reaches out to help the disenfranchised, leads to her finding her own happy-ever-after.