The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories: Pioneering Women of the West

Gale Cengage. Nov. 2019. 360p. ed. by Hazel Rummey. ISBN 9781432864293. pap. $25.95. short stories;.
Sixteen stories illustrating the United States’ past through women’s experiences comprise this impressive new collection. Most are set in the 1800s, with locations ranging from the plantation South (Larry Sweazy’s “The Harrows”; Paul Colt’s “Lady of New Orleans”) and the rest either headed west from Missouri or points much farther out along the frontier. About half are written by women, but all showcase female characters sympathetically and realistically. There are some very grim tales of survival, such as Matthew Mayo’s “Peaches” and Marcia Gaye’s “Mail-Order Delivery”; in many stories, men exhibit the worst possible behavior, and matters of class and ethnicity are dealt with squarely. Sharon Frame Gay’s “Cast from Heaven” centers on a Native American massacre; W. Michael Farmer’s “The Storekeeper’s Daughter” grapples with class distinctions between trade and landed gentry. The situations in which the women find themselves vary, but all meet their challenges with the tough spirit necessary to succeed.
VERDICT Western literature has passed in and out of fashion; at present there’s a movement toward openness and candor regarding the U.S. march to the west. This compilation provides an excellent starting point for book club discussions of Americans in these times.
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