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Jun 22, 2012

Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham

Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham
A soap-opera style of a read, perfect for the summer reading list!
Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham
Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group June 2012
General Fiction/Romance
Hardcover, 480 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars

Recently orphaned, eleven-year-old Cathy Benson feels she has been dropped into a cultural and intellectual wasteland when she is forced to move from her academically privileged life in California to the small town of Kersey in the Texas Panhandle where the sport of football reigns supreme. She is quickly taken under the unlikely wings of up-and-coming gridiron stars and classmates John Caldwell and Trey Don Hall, orphans like herself, with whom she forms a friendship and eventual love triangle that will determine the course of the rest of their lives.
Taking the three friends through their growing up years until their high school graduations when several tragic events uproot and break them apart, the novel expands to follow their careers and futures until they reunite in Kersey at forty years of age. Told with all of Meacham's signature drama, unforgettable characters, and plot twists, readers will be turning the pages, desperate to learn how it all plays out.

I must confess that I adore Leila Meacham since she is the very first author I had met during an event for her previous release, Roses. I had adored Roses as it had an epic/saga feel that was often generously compared to Gone With The Wind. Tumbleweeds has a lot to live up to after that release of Roses which was within my favorite genre of historical fiction, and Leila takes an entirely different turn with Tumbleweeds. It starts off in 1979 with young characters, a trio of twelve year olds and the story follows their lives as they grow to love each other as only true best friends can. And when they turn sixteen, of course the boys fall in love with the girl, and Cathy picks Trey as her lover, and John is okay with that.

Trey is the high school quarterback, John is his receiver, and Cathy dotes on them both. She can only pick one, and of course she seemingly picks the wrong one. One disaster after another follows the trio, just like huge tumbleweeds blocking them from happiness, and these events eventually force the friendship to scatter in the wind. The Friday night football scene comes into play as we witness the small town of Kersey place a lot of emphasis on the 1985 Championship team and the stellar quarterback. The coach, friends and neighbors make a great supporting cast for this story as they all watch and wait to see what happens to these promising youths, just as the reader does. What was once a promising future for the trio to be joined at the hip at the University of Miami, only one will make it there and the other two are left to pick up the pieces of broken promises and broken hearts.

What is left for the other two is the will and courage to survive, but not in the way the third one is mistakingly thinking they would. There is an entire miscommunication theme throughout, as stubbornness prevails and refusal to set aside pride threatens the happiness of Cathy, Trey, John and their families. We see everything crumbling around them, and there is little hope for them as time passes and they each move on, but we know that at some point the three will still have to come to grips with reality and have a super pow-wow. Even if it is years later, which is what made the novel such a page-turner.

This inevitable meeting of the three (which is alluded to in the opening scene) kept getting pushed aside and is what kept driving me to read on, as I really wanted Trey to open his eyes and stop being such a jerk of a jock. There was once an inseparable bond between the three friends and there was the hope that even with the passage of years there had to be a way to bring them back together. When the past finally catches up to the trio, worlds collide in more ways than one. Murder, mayhem and fatherhood all twist into a strange ending that is a bit over-the-top, but in spite of the crazy twists this is a captivating and emotionally rich story of friendship and (misplaced?) loyalty, laced with that soap opera feel.. which makes Tumbleweeds a perfect summer read.