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Binker

Pale Horse, Pale Rider

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Katherine Anne Porter is one of the great writers of 20th Century America, despite a rather limited output (her personal life was so colorful that she must always have been distracted).  I read something by her in high school, but I don't think it was this book.  This book is really 3 novellas.  The first one is called "Old Mortality" and tells the story of a family that includes 2 children, sisters, Martha and Miranda.  Miranda at about age 20 is the main character in title novella, which takes place in Denver, Colorado when the 1918 flu pandemic hit there.  Miranda's extended illness and hallucinations and the background sounds are all dire--the boarding house owner shrieking "she can't stay here, she can't stay here," people galloping away on horses to get doctors, old-fashioned ambulances trundling through the streets, and funeral procession after funeral procession.  A historian of the pandemic thought the description of being that sick and all of the attendant reactions and fears was so accurate that he dedicated his non-fiction book to Porter.

 

She is quite a writer, I must say.  I remembered that from high school, but reading this reminded me again.  The novella I haven't mentioned, which is unrelated to the pandemic, made me so tense that I couldn't finish it.  It takes place on a dairy farm in south Texas in the 1890s, not necessarily where you would expect high tension, but it's there. I recommend it highly, despite not being able to finish. In fact, I recommend the whole book. 

 

I would not have read this but for my IRL book club, which has been fraying badly under the pressures of the election and COVID-19.  Since it's a book club of excessively-educated bookworms, this has been evidenced by nasty emails being sent around to the entire group, when it's really just a fight among about 5 members.  Plus a lot of passive aggressive behavior.  I want to knock their heads together, but we aren't meeting in person, so the opportunity hasn't presented itself.  Anyway, this book was so good that I guess I will stick with book club for now.

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