Ms. Hen had never heard of Jim Harrison until he died earlier this year. He isn’t really her cup of tea: she isn’t into fiction about rural areas. She wasn’t sure about him, but one of her rooster friends sent her an interview with Harrison and she thought he said some cool things about writing. She wanted to read one of his novels, and finally got around to reading DALVA. She chose this book because it is about a woman.
Dalva is a woman who has had a lot of bad luck in her life, but she deals with it with her chin held high. Her father died in the Korean War after he survived World War II. Her first love abandons her, and she gets pregnant, then she becomes barren. She travels and has lots of jobs, but her roots are in Western Nebraska. Her family comes from money. She thinks that she has no father, no husband, and no son.
Since Ms. Hen doesn’t like books about the country and country people, she wasn’t sure she would like this. But she did. This book wasn’t boring – it moved along at a fast pace. There were many colorful characters in this novel, from Dalva to her mother, Naomi; her sister, Ruth; Lundquist; Michael. Also the descriptions of the countryside in Nebraska and Arizona are breathtaking. The author went to a lot of depth to describe both the characters and the setting.
Even though Ms. Hen loved this book, there seemed to be too much information at times. The writing was too deep, almost like the author was living in the book that he created. Ms. Hen was a little uncomfortable at the way Dalva was described at some points in the book. She thought that she is described through a man’s eyes, and if a woman wrote this book, she wouldn’t have been seen as such an object. Not that Ms. Hen doesn’t think that the author didn’t like his character, it’s that he sees her as something sexual, and the other male characters do as well. There are other aspects of Dalva which are important, but to the other male characters, she’s just beautiful.
The novel breaks into a different character’s point of view, Michael's, in the middle of the book. Michael is a flawed character, but he brings balance to Dalva’s strength. He is researching the family history through diaries that Dalva’s great-grandfather left behind, who survived the oppression of the Indians in the territories. The great-grandfather’s wife was Sioux, and he was an arborist who planted trees. He was devastated over the way the Americans treated the Indians, and the family has a secret, which Dalva and Michael discover.
Her quest to find the son that she gave up for adoption over twenty years ago causes Dalva a lot of pain. She doesn’t know what he will be like. She suffers because of a mistake she made when she was young. The mistake is bigger than she knows at first.
There is a smattering of chickens in this novel, which made Ms. Hen happy. Ms. Hen didn’t underline the passages, because she read a library book, but the characters were always eating chicken that was freshly plucked.
This novel is a broad sweep of a brush across a canvass. A lot of characters come and go, and are so richly drawn, Ms. Hen felt like she knew them, even though she hasn’t spent much time in rural areas. Ms. Hen felt sorry for Dalva, but she knew Dalva would survive, because that’s her nature.