A Cottonwood Stand: A Novel of Nebraska
Sunstone Press (2018)
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (9/18)
“A Cottonwood Stand” by Nebraska native Chuck Redman is quite the unusual read. The story revolves around Lark, a young Sioux woman who rebels against tribal tradition to search for her adopted sister, and Janet Hinderson who runs a local newspaper and takes on a meatpacking plant that will destroy the character of her small town and the fabric of a well-tuned community.
I found the unique dialogue used by the author to be quite entertaining in that it was like storytelling passed down through generations. The narrator, left nameless, utilizes a somewhat country, down-to-earth language to describe various scenarios between the local townspeople and the issue at hand, which is whether or not they should let the meatpacking plant build in their town. A good example is describing pictures on the editor Hinderson’s wall: “Some are black’n white, some are color, but all of ‘em are pictures of a feller having his picture took with other folks.” I will say that it took me some time to adjust to this narrative with this unfamiliar dialect.
When narrating about Lark, the author just jumps in without any warning to readers. One example comes to mind at the beginning where Janet is typing fast and furious about her thoughts on the zoning petition and council motion. The very next paragraph starts the narration on the Sioux Indians and Chief Rain Bear getting a new wife. This is not without cause however, and once readers get used to this format, they will see the coincidence of each narrative.
I found the story to be compelling in that if you believe strongly in something you should not sit back and let others run you over. Both female characters are strong and assertive, and they address many of the same social issues but in a different era.
Author Chuck Redman puts a lot of action in this short read, but it was well worth it. If you like unusual narratives, filled with a good plot and funny secondary characters, “A Cottonwood Stand” is the book for you.