Just as the eastern Oregon farmers in Malheur planted and harvested onions, Nancy Minor treats us to a tasty “onion” of a story that we get to peel, layer after layer. Set in 1971, Jean Algood is about to discover some dark secrets about her family when she finds an old picture of four people in a deceased hermit’s shack by the river. Her curiosity takes her on a journey that will reveal the darkest of family secrets that actually begin before World War II. Friends and family in this small town make seemingly small decisions that have explosive outcomes. Their hushed-up history begins to unravel after three decades as Jean Algood searches for the truth about herself, her brothers, and her parents. A crisis with Jean’s father is the catalyst for finding dark secrets that resist being discovered. But page-by-page and chapter-by-chapter this “onion” becomes peeled amid laughter and tears. Get comfortable because you will be compelled to read this book in one setting.
Nancy Judd Minor begins this journey of raw life experiences through the eyes, inventive mind, and very inquisitive ears, of a young girl named jean. Eavesdropping on adult conversations solves her curiosity about some life and family situations, but leaves some secrets no one will discuss.
Endearing characters and clever dialogue draw you into a turbulent saga of tragedy, humor, and various kinds of love. Before the mysteries are solved, we experience the sights, smells, and stifling heat of August in the rural Eastern Oregon high desert.
This is Nancy Judd Minor's first novel, and I'm anxiously awaiting a sequel!
Whenever I read fiction that I enjoy, as the end gets closer my reading gets slower because I don’t want it to end. Such was the case with Nancy Judd Minor’s Malheur August.
Minor batted a home run with all bases loaded. Her writing unapologetically laid out a plausible story with people who seemed lifted from life itself. The rich character development made the story come alive in the desert habitat of eastern Oregon farmland. Like true life, the people in the novel were three dimensional, each one having human personality—complete with features both agreeable and unlovable.
The setting in time and location sent me to Google to explore a phenomenal method of transporting water over the desert hills of Malheur County. The Bully Creek siphon where high school kids partied took me on a satellite map trip of the region to follow its twists and turns to deliver life giving water to thirsty crops in a rich agricultural economy that would remain a desert wasteland without it. Such distractions brought Malheur August into my own life as the story took on the breadth of real life as it advances through tragedy into resolve, loyalty and hope.
With this as Minor’s debut, I hope she will reach deep into her experiences and imagination to provide her readers with more treasures from her storytelling.
Having grown up in the sere desert of eastern Oregon and in the small farming and ranching community she writes about, I can say that there is not a single false note in the remarkably engaging story Nancy Judd Minor tells. In her novel, the desert landscape and the community that inhabits the small valley nestled within sagebrush hills constitute a rich canvas on which to paint the intimate portrait of one family’s complicated history. Although her narrative is set in the 1940s and the 1970s, at many junctures I was convinced that the events in it were unfolding even as I read it. Every reader will recognize elements of their own family’s lives here. It is a compelling story, one that will pull you into it because it will come to seem, very nearly, as if you are a part of it too. What a wonderful read!
thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing is lyrical and rich, yet the story does not get lost in lush descriptions. I loved the characters, and felt they were real people. The author does an amazing job of evoking a time and place. Most of all, this is a great story about family - the complexity of family relationships, the secrets that families can carry for generations, and, ultimately, the poignant dance of figuring out how to live in a family.
Ms. Minor takes us to a place where few live, and crafts a story that plunges the reader into a very different time and place from where we are now. Or is it really so different? Her prose, with its rich descriptive voice, helps her reader to see and feel the surroundings Minor obviously knows well, and introduces us to characters we might not otherwise meet. While the book is set in the past, its themes are relatable, as a family has to face a different truth from the reality they created to deal with tragedy. Hard to believe this is Ms. Minor’s debut novel, and I sincerely hope she will take us back to Eastern Oregon with a second novel!
This was so much more overwhelming than I'd expected.... I grew up in Vale, so those location markers made things "real" to read.... the family created here were so powerfully real in language, manners, etc., you KNEW these were people you did grow up with. Then we learn what's behind those 'curtains' we all close up often. And, now at 70, I ALSO recognized that these truly WERE real characters, and the human faults they have are shared everywhere. I also read this in one long day....having to put it down at times to simply relax a little. A powerful "human" story here...... the writing's brilliant.
“Malheur August takes you on a sun filled ride into the heart of darkness and brings you back smiling. Passions, mistakes and tragedies weave into the fabric of our lives yet Nancy Minor mixes this classic struggle with lyrical prose making Malheur August a rich and intoxicating read.”
I read Nancy Judd Minor's "Malheur August" in a single afternoon. I immediately felt as if I'd known these characters for years, and their drama compelled me to keep reading just one more chapter until all of a sudden (and quite sadly), I was finished. I also loved Minor's description of the town of Vale and of Oregon at large; as a lifelong Pacific Northwesterner, it was a thrill to see my home so vividly portrayed. I highly recommend "Malheur August" and can't wait to see what Minor writes next.
Artfully developed characters, nuanced descriptions of Eastern Oregonʻs physical and cultural landscape
bring rural Malheur and its inhabitants to life in a compelling first novel.
Will the characterʻs tangled lives and long-held beliefs, hold up to discovered truths?
This is an intricate story, well told and well-worth the read.