Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Broken Ground"

Karen Halvorsen Schreck is the author of the historical novel Sing For Me, which was praised in a Publishers Weekly starred review. She received her doctorate in English and Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and now teaches writing and literature.

Halvorsen Schreck applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Broken Ground, and reported the following:
This is the first time I’ve taken the Page 69 Test, and, lo and behold, it could be read as a distillation of my novel, Broken Ground. The book is divided into three parts. Page 69 reminds readers of the central conflict in Part I, launches us into Part Two, and alludes to the developments in Part III.
I head toward the platform, intent on locating what’s left of my previous life. I’m almost there when one of the officials spots me. He rushes over, blocks my way. “What do you think you’re doing, Miss?”

Mrs., I almost say. Or ma’am, if you prefer. But then I remember what I want and consider my best plan: to make him a certain ally. I smile at the man. Beneath the brim of his snappy hat, his features reveals themselves as those I’ve come to think of as particularly Californian, handsome yet, generic, like the Hollywood stars I’ve seen on cinema posters throughout the years. His face has the broad appeal of warm, buttered bread or vanilla ice cream, deliciously palatable, easily digested. Still smiling but suddenly aware of my disheveled state, I pass my hands over my hair, gone so lank from the long trip that the ends brush my shoulders.

“My suitcase might be on that train,” I say. “I need to find it.”

“Well.” The man flashes what I suppose is his winning smile. “See, there’s government work going on here. Can’t let you interrupt that . . . I’ll rustle up your suitcase for you if it’s there. But we got to get these people on board that train.”
In Part I of Broken Ground, the central character, Ruth Warren, is devastated by the loss of her husband in an oilrig accident. At the height of her grief, she leaves Texas and returns to Oklahoma to live with her parents. She is enmeshed again in the constraints of her childhood. But a forgotten opportunity arises: a scholarship to attend college in Pasadena, California. On page 69, Ruth has just arrived in Pasadena, only to find that her suitcase, which holds the little bit she has left of her married life, is lost. Is Ruth a grieving widow? A young college student? She’s both, but the two identities are by no means fitting neatly, hand in glove. In Part II of the novel, Ruth will struggle to define herself anew.

In this scene, Ruth also gets her first glimpse of events that will drive Part III of Broken Ground: the deportation without due process of between one and two million people of Mexican heritage, 60% of whom were U.S. citizens, and known as the Repatriation Program of the 1930s. On page 69, Ruth thinks only of herself. By the end of Part III, her perspective on suffering will be much more expansive.
Visit Karen Halvorsen Schreck's website.

My Book, The Movie: Broken Ground.

Writers Read: Karen Halvorsen Schreck.

--Marshal Zeringue