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A Vine in the Blood

Valery Varble, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

Each of the characters in this novel searches for something: identity, connection, healing, “place.” Anata returns to Southern Illinois on an orphan train to look for her mother. Instead she finds a makeshift family in a judge and his grown son, slowly starving in an empty mansion, haunted by guilt, isolated from the community and each other. ^ Anata's daughter, Vienna, is torn between her desire for her father's respect, and her longing to be something more than a farmer's daughter. She organizes a “bread strike” to increase wages for women in the local box factory. ^ Vienna's granddaughters, Sissy and Cairo, search, as well. Fiercely independent, Sissy leaves the farm to become a truck driver. When she inadvertently steals a truck and discovers something surprising in her trailer, she must accept help from the people staying at a desert motel. And Cairo, who remains on the farm, tells everyone else's story until at last, she finds her own. ^ The novel explores various themes, for example, the idea that family can occur in unusual ways. There is relentless and painful wordplay throughout, as a kind of code, a burr, a means of survival, a restlessness within language. ^ But above all else, this novel is about storytelling. The narrative draws on fairy tales, coyote “trickster” stories, history, jokes, and ballads. The multiple narrators tell their own stories and re-shape the narratives told by others. Patterns emerge as events get re-played across time. Anata's jilting as a young bride, for example, is revisited when, at Sissy's wedding, the minister almost “marries” great-grandmother and granddaughter. Later, Sissy is “married” in a Bengali ceremony at a motel in order to hide her from the sheriff. ^ The stories these women tell each other and themselves function as a kind of “source,” as replenishment, marking the terrain in which they live. Ultimately they're as crucial as the nearby Darkwater Creek, which also wends throughout the book, continually changing course, re-shaping the landscape, gathering force, and finally overspilling its banks. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Varble, Valery, "A Vine in the Blood" (2004). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3131565.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3131565

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