Cactus Thorn: A Novella

Mary Austin, Author, Melody Graulich, Designed by
Mary Austin, Author, Melody Graulich, Designed by University of Nevada Press $17.95 (122p) ISBN 978-0-87417-135-8
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
Formal in its dialogue, passionate and romantic in its evocation of the Southwest, where the central action takes place, this slender novella is at heart a feminist tract. The boy-meets-girl openinghe, Grant Arliss, a socialist politician from New York, she, Dulcie Adelaid, as skilled as an Indian in tracking the desert where she was raisedpromises a happy ending. But subtle clues signal otherwise: the eponymous cactus thorn, a tiny dagger with which Dulcie kills a snake rearing toward Grant, and Dulcie's conviction that one must act according to one's beliefbeliefs that she thinks Grant's socialism espouses and that his own life should reflect. The splendor of the desert and of their love for each other is disturbed when a drunken man appears and demands to see Dulcie. Grant sends him, through a murderous sandstorm, in the wrong direction; later, Dulcie reveals that he is her husband. Events then careen wildly to the shocking and yet logicalwithin its feminist ideology resolution. Written in 1927 and never before published, the story is timeless in setting and moral tone. Like Austin's other novels ( Earth Horizon , Land of Little Rain ), it is a powerful enactment of a woman's need to choose between a man and the land she loves. (September)
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