cover image Place with Promise

Place with Promise

Edward Swift, Jonathan Swift. Doubleday Books, $16.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-385-24287-5

Elizabeth Treadway was standing in the Sabine River, her three pet cranes nearby, when Isaac Overstreet came down from Camp Ruby in search of a wife. She didn't even wave goodbye to her sisters when she climbed in Isaac's boat and told him he'd found what he'd been looking for. Settling in to Camp Ruby, something less than a bona fide town in turn-of-the-century East Texas, Bessie Overstreet makes a home of Isaac's ramshackle house, establishes herself with the townspeople, and begins her life-long effort to hybridize a purple daylily. Soon their twin daughters, the Ruby-Jewels, are born, and some years later another girl, ever-cranky Zeda Earl. The people of Camp Ruby accept life's mysteries and each others' eccentricities as comfortably as they live on the shifting shore of the Sabine. The twins leave home to live with the teacher's son high in an abandoned water tower, where they patch prize-winning crazy quilts; Isaac fishes on the Sabine with a clumsy angel; the deranged Billy Wiggins brings satisfaction to the doctor's insatiable daughter. While neither their superstitions nor wisdom can withstand the inroads of progress, something of their quirky grit lasts. In the end, it's the least likely Zeda Earl in whom the spirit of the time and place is carried on. Swift exhibits plenty of his own wisdom and imagination in this novel, following Splendora and Principia Martindale. (October 16)