The story starts with Casey, a young woman in Nebraska, "a place of tiny thoughts". Her husband is Moses, the last of the Love family that gives the little town its name and this book its title. He is some 20 years older than Casey and the kind of husband you would not wish on any woman, his cruelty as much based on grim dominance and moody masculinity as on physical violence. For Casey, he is "the husband" and that is how he is identified in the narrative.
As the story opens, he is on the edge of a small lake in a property he has inherited from a line of Love entrepreneurs stretching back generations. The business is in trouble and now the big house, the Ferris wheel and the boardwalk are in flame. Casey and her infant daughter Rosie make their way from Nebraska to Queensland.
We now move forward more than half a century. Casey has recently died and willed her residual rights to Loveland to her daughter Rosie who asks her daughter May to go to Nebraska to organise the sale of the properties.
As luck would have it, May's husband is a mirror-image of long-dead Moses: an emotional and physical bully who treats her like a minor annoyance, incapable of making any decisions for herself, an attitude that appears to have been passed on to their teenage son.
The remainder of the book is set in Nebraska, involving May's adventures there in the present time and the reprise of events from the time when Casey was young and living there. The locals are charmed by May's Australian accent but are worried that if she manages to sell her property, it will damage an action they are taking against state and federal authorities.
She is befriended by 75-year-old Jean, former close friend of her grandmother Casey. They learn from each other the need to take control from the men in their lives.
This is a powerful story of the way that women can take back power over their own existence and wrest their independence from an authoritarian man. At places, it moves into a kind of spiritual domain, as May imagines herself suspended above the earth. It is a story of love and forgiveness combined with growing self-awareness, culminating in frighteningly careful aggression that should have you paying closer attention to the change from active to passive voice in a sentence earlier in this review.
The actual layout of the Nebraska property is not clear - a diagram would help - but this is a minor annoyance. Stories that move across time can often be confusing, but the transition here is clear, so that the reader is never in doubt about which one is being dealt with. Here, at last, is a book that manages time changes in a way that will not annoy.
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