Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that have been waiting on the ‘to be read’ pile for however long, and are finally getting an airing.
This week my choice is another Bette Lee Crosby book. The Wyattsville series is a lovely collection of books with charming and empathetic characters.
As Cyrus Dodd looks back over a long life, threaded through with what he considered regrets, he realises those regrets he was holding onto were actually challenges, which eventually developed into blessings in disguise. ‘Mine has been a complicated life, a story worthy of telling, but to appreciate the end you have to go back to the beginning.’
In 1930 Cyrus Dodd and his wife, Ruth lived and farmed in Elk Bend, West Virginia. Cyrus’ neighbour, Virgil Jackson, controlled the water supply to the adjoining farms. When Cyrus and Virgil had a falling out, neither would back down and it escalated until Virgil dammed the spring on his land and cut off Cyrus’ water supply, causing his crops to fail. Unsuccessful attempts to end the feud only seemed to make matters worse. Both men were stubborn and strong-willed.
Tragedy and disaster befell Cyrus and Ruth, who became increasing depressed and unhappy. Cyrus’ decision to start fresh was a hard one, and the cause and effects changed the lives of both families irrevocably. Cyrus loved his farm and the land, but he loved Ruth above all else and couldn’t bear her sadness. They decided to relocate to Wyattsville, where there were well paid jobs available with a railroad company. After an initial hitch Cyrus and Ruth are taken in by widow, Prudence Greenly. Although Cyrus still has regrets, their life is good. Which can’t be said for Virgil.
When I came to this land, I believed it was where I would spend the rest of my days. Even before Ruth and I were married I could imagine us raising a family here – sons who would one day work the land beside me and daughters to keep their mama company. I figured once our kids were grown up and ready to get married we’d finish clearing the north field and build another house or two over there.
Because of Virgil Jackson, those dreams are gone. There is little we can look forward to other than an uncertain future. It pains me not to see him pay for what he’s done, but there is nothing more I can do. Not without causing Ruth more pain than she has already endured.
Throughout his life there were many regrets Cyrus couldn’t let go of and they ate at him. Ruth saw things differently, showing perfectly the gulf between optimism and pessimism and how each affects the individual person. The aftermath of events which seem, at the time, like the end of the world and herald unwanted change, have the potential for much better eventual outcome than anticipated.
An insightful and wise story, full of heartache, hope, love, joy, friendship, personal trials and imperfect, realistic characters who engage the emotions. The relaxed style of writing, obvious understanding of motivating forces and human weaknesses is a constant theme throughout the author’s work, which never fails to impress.
Flashbacks to Virgil’s story shows how the feud shaped his life and family. A cautionary tale for today’s climate, of how bitterness and anger can turn into something much more, festering, poisoning and ruining lives. On the other hand there’s Prudence Greenly, Olivia Doyle, their friends and the residents of the Wyattsville Arms apartment block, who go out of their way to help people down on their luck.
‘Sometimes a small kindness can keep a person’s heart from breaking.’
‘Having regrets ain’t good for the soul.’
About the Book
Revenge, death, deception… These are the things Cyrus Dodd has to overcome if he is to give Ruth the life he’s promised her. The problem is he’s got a prideful nature and when a seemingly innocuous argument leads to a bitter feud with his neighbor, his life changes forever. The plans he has falls by the wayside and before he finds a way to fix it, he comes to understand the meaning of regret.