A debut novel chronicling the life and loves of a headstrong, earthy, and magnetic heroine
Eastern Oklahoma, 1928. Eighteen-year-old Maud Nail lives with her rogue father and sensitive brother on one of the allotments parceled out by the U.S. Government to the Cherokees when their land was confiscated for Oklahoma’s statehood. Maud’s days are filled with hard work and simple pleasures, but often marked by violence and tragedy, a fact that she accepts with determined practicality. Her prospects for a better life are slim, but when a newcomer with good looks and books rides down her section line, she takes notice. Soon she finds herself facing a series of high-stakes decisions that will determine her future and those of her loved ones.
Maud’s Line is accessible, sensuous, and vivid. It will sit on the bookshelf alongside novels by Jim Harrison, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and other beloved chroniclers of the American West and its people.
|Sold by:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|File size:||6 MB|
About the Author
MARGARET VERBLE is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Her first novel, Maud's Line, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky.
Read an Excerpt
Maud was bent over one row suckering tomato plants and Lovely was bent over the next one. They were talking about a girl Lovely had his eyes set on. But a cow’s bawling interrupted that. Maud unfolded and looked toward the river. Lovely did the same. The bawling was loud, unnatural, and awful, and it set them to running. They ran first toward the house, not toward the sound, because neither had taken a gun to the garden. Maud stopped at the steps; Lovely rushed in for their rifles. Armed up and not bothering to talk, they both ran straight toward the pump to get to the pasture below the ridge where the howling was coming from. If they hadn’t been fearful, they would’ve run fifty more yards to the gate and gone through it. But they were scared and hurrying, so they climbed the barbed wire just past the pump, and Lovely snagged his sleeve, leaving behind a piece of blue cotton waving like the flag of a small foreign country. Maud did worse than that. She snagged her leg below the knee at the back, opening a tear deep at its top and three inches long. Maud was vain about her legs and Lovely had only three shirts, but still they ran, focused on the bawling, without minding their mishaps.
When they got to the cow, Betty was folded with both her head and her rump sticking up. Between them, smack across the ridge of her spine, were three wide, angry gashes. She was thrashing all over the ground. She’d flattened out a circle of weeds, and, oddly, out of the center wound, a stalk of poke protruded. It was a thick stem of poke and resembled, stuck out as it was, a spear. That’s what Maud thought as soon as she saw it.
Lovely yelled, “Her back’s axed. We’ll have to shoot her.” He moved toward Betty’s head and raised his rifle. But then he just stood, cheek on the stock, eye down the sights, finger on the trigger.
Maud yelled, “Pull it.”
But the end of Lovely’s gun shook like a leaf in a breeze. So Maud raised her rifle, moved a step west to keep from shooting her brother, and waited until she had a good look at an ear.
The blowback of skull and brain splattered onto Lovely’s overalls and shirt. He lowered his gun and looked down at his bib. He said, “I’m gonna be sick.” Before he completely bent over, he threw up fatback and biscuits over pieces of cow head.
Betty’s legs kept flailing. Maud shouldered her rifle again; said, “Move farther back”; looked down her sights; and sent another bullet into the white patch between the cow’s eyes. Then she cradled her gun in the crook of her arm, cupped her hand over her mouth, and cried, “Betty, I’m sorry.” Her shoulders heaved. She felt the blood trickle down the back of her leg. She looked at the rivulet, laid her gun on the ground, and tore off a Johnson grass blade. She plastered it over the wound and then sat in the weeds and watched the cow twitching to death.
Tears watered Maud’s eyes and spilled onto her cheeks. Betty was a tough Hereford with a big heart and strong legs and, the year before, had climbed a fallen tree to escape the worst of the flood. But any dead cow would’ve been a disaster. They’d lost all but three of their herd to the water. To take her eyes and mind off of Betty’s trembling, Maud looked over to Lovely. He was wiping his bib with a leaf. She said, “Don’t worry about that. We’ve got to save this meat.”
Maud sent Lovely off to round up their uncles, Blue and Early. The men came back with Blue driving Great-Uncle Ame’s 1920 Dodge sedan. He maneuvered it into the pasture as close to Betty as he could get, and the four of them strung her up to the sturdiest tree around. They set to butchering, talking about the meanness it took to ax a cow in the back. They gave Blue the hide to cure and packed Betty’s meat in old newspapers and feed sacks. They deposited those on the floor of the backseat and agreed they’d pay Hector Hempel, the dwarf who ran the icehouse, two rump roasts for storing the meat. The men drove off with the car loaded so heavy it didn’t rattle.
Maud walked to the house. She first tended her leg and then drew her dress and slip off over her head. At eighteen, she was fit, dark, and tall like the rest of her mother’s family and most of her tribe. She was more of a willow than an oak, and her figure and personality had grown pleasing to every male within a twenty-mile radius, to some of the women, too, and to most of the animals. Maud carried that admiration the way eggs are carried in a basket, carefully, with a little tenderness, but without minding too closely the individual. She drew on another slip and dress, tossed her and Lovely’s dirty clothes in a tub, and pumped cool water over them until they were completely covered. She left them to soak while she filled one of the front-yard kettles with water and lit a fire under it.
While she stirred their clothes in the kettle, her heart sank further than it’d sunk since the flood, and tears came to her eyes again. Heat rose up to her cheeks, and the fire under the pot made her shins hot. She poked the clothes with the pole and gave in to crying and to some self-pity she didn’t much admire. She wanted a washer with a tub and ringers. They were advertised all the time in the papers. So were refrigerators, lamps that turned on with buttons, toilets that flushed in the house. She lifted her dress out of the water with the end of the pole and dipped it again. She wiped her nose with the back of her hand and forced her mind off of the things she wanted. She turned it to the cold kind of cruelty that would kill an innocent cow. She felt Betty’s twitching in the wound on the back of her leg, felt her bawling all over again in her heart.
But she was recovered and hanging the clothes on the line when the men got back to the farm. And although they were noticeably tired from the butchering and lugging of meat, and Lovely was still shaken from the whole ordeal, they pitched in and scooped out the wash water, carried it to the garden for the tomato plants, and set wood for a fire in the pit. Maud had saved back enough meat to feed some of their extended family: Blue and Early, of course; and her grandpa Bert; and her great-uncle Ame and his wife, Viola; and her aunt Lucy and her husband, Cole. She didn’t save out any for her father. It was Saturday and late in the afternoon. He wouldn’t crawl back until well into the night.
Blue left to clean up and fetch the others. But Early hung around to eat his share of the beef. He was only twenty-six, and his talk was about going to town, gambling, and people of the female persuasion. Maud found Early a lot of fun, and having him to herself raised her spirits some. She teased him about his plans for the evening and fed him the food that was ready, except for the onions. She told him he needed to hold off on those out of respect for the women.
Shortly after Early left, Blue came back in a wagon with his father, Ame and Viola, Lucy and Cole, and their baby boy. He pulled the wagon close to the fire and hitched the mules to the rail. There weren’t enough chairs for everybody to sit, so they ate from the wagon bed, some in it, some standing around the tailgate. And it was a feast—beans, onions, biscuits, hominy, the beef, lettuce, asparagus, and two pecan pies Lucy had baked.
While they ate, they talked about who’d murdered the cow. Not that it was much of a mystery. The Mount boys, or men, John and Claude, were the culprits. Everybody agreed on that because of the sneakiness of the crime and because the Mounts had a history of meanness that Grandpa and Great-Uncle Ame swore extended for generations. The Mounts’ paternal grandpappy had once set fire to his own dog and blamed it on his neighbor. One of their great-uncles had been the biggest allotment stealer in the Cookson Hills. He’d locked three men in a cabin with a barrel of liquor and wouldn’t feed them or let them out until they’d signed their papers over to him. Then when they did, he wouldn’t even let them have the rest of the whiskey. And the Mounts’ mama, Ame claimed in almost a whisper, had more than a little Comanche in her.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I went into this story knowing almost nothing about it-the book was on sale; and good thing that it was because there was no description/synopsis, and only one lonely review encouraging other readers to buy it, which is why I'm going out of my way to write my own honest review. Maud, is the type of MC that sticks with you inbetween readings as you go about your day, & is impossible not to love and feel a connection to no matter who you are-in other words, the authors successfully & deftly created a MC character that almost anyone can relate to, along with quite a few supporting characters that remind us of others we may know in our own life(many within our own family). Its the perfect length, easy to read, heartwarming and honest, and guaranteed to teach you something of Oklahoma's past, and what it may have been like to grow up & live there as a Native American with so much change and growth taking place in our country at that time-i.e. 1927-1929. There's love found and love lost, humor and sadness, death and birth, pain and joy, and most of all...there is hope. This is a story of hope and worth every penny.
I loved her story. Her spirit was beautiful. Even through all her hardships.
Could't put this one down, and I hope I'll see more by this author. I loved the story of Maude!!
Had no idea what to expect but this bood didn't disappoint. Looked forward to each chapter.
This window into the lives of a group of first nations people set in rural Oklahoma is visceral and heart wrenching. The story of Maud transports the reader to a time and culture that many of us have really never heard about before. We see into the very personal, very poor, and extremely unjust world of American "Indians" in early 19th century North America and it's bleak and painful. The story is told with sensitivity and simplicity in a way that seems well-matched to the culture of the people and time. I'm of tribal American descent but completely disconnected from the culture and it sometimes haunts me how little I know of it and how ignorant I am of what life must have been like. I don't know how accurate that part of the story is but based on my grandparents lives in a small impoverished mining town in Arizona- it felt familiar and true. The interplay between "white" people and the reach for whiteness among some tribal people in this story was particularly intriguing to me. It seemed likely. I was also thinking there must be so much story to tell without any white side to it.. and then, would it sell? I'm going to read more by this author and I'm going to keep searching for literature on the life of tribal groups in North America, as well as work by women, about strong women.
Maud's line is a tale about the author's own family. The story is set in beautiful Oklahoma, and delves into the culture of the First People of the land and the settlers of the era. The story includes all the expected hardships: hazards, dangers, illnesses - mental and physical, and the violence of the wild American west. The writing is simple to fall into and the story has many fascinating characters. Unfortunately, the heroine, Maud, came across as selfish and prone to foolish decisions. Nevertheless, the story is a portrait of the times and a good history of Oklahoma. Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I usually do not give Five-Star reviews. If one EVER deserved one, this is the book! From the opening words of this novel, I had the inkling that this was to be a book of unusual quality. The cadence, tone, pacing, characters all created a picture of life on a Native American farming allotment in Oklahoma of such vibrence and precision that it was almost a physical experience. This book is beautiful in the way a thunderstorm holds beauty in its fierceness or in the way a heavy rain can transform a newly-tilled field into an art work of erosion – amazing to behold, difficult to witness. It is the kind of book that will make the next book read to be dull and colorless, regardless of how good that book may be. Maud Nail, direct descendent of those who walked The Trail of Tears from Georgia to Oklahoma, lives with her brother, Lovely, and her father, Mustard (so named because of his temper) on her deceased mother’s allotment. Her extended family live on the surrounding land – all making a living out of the dusty, rich soil given to them in exchange for homes taken from them. Her steady, routine life is forever changed when someone takes an axe to one of the family’s cows. That act of senseless violence sets off a chain of events so dynamic in their impact that Maud is left feeling like an unwelcomed stranger on her own land. Those feelings of detachment are only intensified when a handsome peddler (Booker) drives up with his wagon-full of wares covered in striking blue canvas. Maud loves her farm and her family. She attends to her daily chores without delay or rancor, helps with the farming that will bring what little cash can be had in that part of the world and visits her relatives when time and work allow for such enjoyments. The death of Betty (the cow) is a point of focus of just how small her life really is. The response to this attack on the family and its’ livelihood is expectedly harsh and coincides with the feelings of love she is beginning to have for one outside of her clan. Both occasions are moments of change for Maud. Protecting her family, she knows, requires sacrifice unasked for but nonetheless expected. The growing love she has for Booker awakens her to the demands such feelings make – honesty, transparency, trust of one not blood-kin. In response to each of these moments, Maud takes action; she makes one situation far worse for those she hoped to protect, she acts in the other in a manner that is new for her but one that will lead her further from the certainty she once held in ease. The reader is follows Maud as she goes about living her life in a time of change for her. The riches Oklahoma is experiencing has a feeling of permanence – the oilfields are making everyone connected with them wealthy, farmers are having bumper crops of corn and wheat with a ready market, the Creek and Cherokee nations, exiled to a foreign land, are accomplishing to live on their own. The love Maud learned in her home and within her community is expanding in ways that are new but seem natural and she learns that it is very good. She is wanted by two desirable men who are near opposites, one offers the “future,” the other offers the stability of what she already knows. Maud is the representation of the Nation during that age. Hopeful for more, holding to the past. This is a novel written for adults. There is graphic violence and
I normally don’t read literary fiction (I’m a genre reader through and through), but this story immediately caught my attention for its setting and the characters. This is the story of a young Cherockee woman trying to find her path in life in the years immediately before the Great Depression. Maud immediately hooked me as a character, although she gets two different incarnation in the course of the story. In the first half, she’s a strong-willed young woman with very clear ideas about what she wants and the way to get it. What I really liked about her is that she always tries to get her way, so she’s willing to lie and to deceive in order to get her goals, but she’s always careful of the pain she may cause. This is particularly true for her romance with Booker who’s not an Indian. I particularly enjoyed the very subtle cultural differences between them and the way Maud handles it, with care and awareness. I liked the fact that while she is a manipulative woman, she always does that in a good way, and by this I mean trying to do the right thing. This is true with her brother Lovely too (his arc is my favourite part in the novel, with him probably going mad and trying to handle it) and with the murder that happened in the very first part of story, which kept me reading. The first part of story was full of mystery and secrets and I loved it. It was character- and plot driven. I read it without pauses. The second part of the story is very different. A couple of character disappear. A couple of mysteries are swiftly ‘solved’ and that took away a big chunk of appeal for me. But above all, Maud changes enormously as a character as she progressively falls into depression and becomes more selfish and self-absorbed. I won’t say this isn’t realistic, because it is. It just detached me from her, because she shifts from a relatable character (for me at least) to a less relatable one. In the second part of the novel, Maud becomes interested only in herself and I had a hard time watching her caring about no one but herself. As I said, this is realistic, particularly in the place and time period of the story, but for me as a reader it was kind of a shame. I still liked the book a lot. It’s very well crafted, and so vivid. The author set it in a place she knows very well (in fact that’s where her family has always lived) and based part of the story on real people and real events (thought most of the story is fictional). And you can feel this. Descriptions are so real, so vivid and so personal that you have no problem believing you’re there in Oklahoma with Maud, and I particularly enjoyed the family portrait, the different people, the way they relate to each other. It’s a deeply involving story, whether you connect with Maud or not. Recommended.