Auslander

Mary Curtner Powell, Author
Mary Curtner Powell, Author Texas Christian University Press $24.5 (296p) ISBN 978-0-87565-215-3
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Ebook - 299 pages - 978-0-585-37705-6
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To the German-American inhabitants of Schoenberg, a town in the Texas hill country, an ""auslander"" is ""someone who comes from a different region and either doesn't understand or won't bend to the local ways."" Vera Jahn, one of four women who narrate alternating chapters in this remarkably confident and powerful first novel, also observes that ""being a woman makes you an auslander. You're always having to earn your citizenship in a place where men, white men to be specific, decide what's important."" From 1967 through 1987, the propertied Jahn family see such established rules challenged and their love of the land tested, as they try to balance commitment and freedom, stability and change. Representative of a new and different way of life is Carol Anne, a ""city girl"" seeking roots, who marries young Fritz Jahn and then finds him undemonstrative and patriarchal. Like her mother and fellow narrator, Sheila, flirtatious Carol Anne craves excitement and initially shirks responsibility, briefly deserting her family in an unsuccessful attempt to become a singer like her mother. Fritz's cousin, serious, level-headed Vera Jahn, resembles Carol Anne in her love of independence. Vera, raised by her maternal uncle, Benno, and his wife, Queenie, alongside Fritz, returns from pursuing an education in German language and literature to settle on Jahn land. She cherishes her single status, despite the guilt-ridden mutual attraction between herself and the maritally unhappy Fritz. Underneath the storm and stress of everyday life (including questionable land deals and troubled relationships) runs Queenie's narrative, her voice one of quiet strength as she tells of the past, of hardship and acceptance. Joys and tragedies unite the Jahns and the community, yet conflicts (Carol Anne's dissatisfaction, Vera's loneliness) remain unsolved at the book's conclusion, mirroring the evolving relationship between the people and the land. (Apr.)
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