A Strong West Wind is a memoir of culture and history - of fathers and daughters, of two world wars and the passionate rebellions of the sixties. It is a memoir written for each of us who longed to move away from our hometowns, knowing that something better just had to be around the corner. Caldwell, who grew up in the Texas panhandle, artfully uses the metaphor of the wind to steer us through the passages of her life. Hooked by her first line "How do we become who we are?", hers is a story of growing up with more questions than answers, that you could be sad and half crazy and still have a life that meant something, that sometimes these definitions are concealed or shrouded in a brighter truth--what looked like an off-road ditch might be another, better path.
Caldwell artfully weaves disparate themes of literature, war, growing up in the 1960's, and her special relationship with her father into a colorful tapestry. As an avid reader, I particularly enjoyed how she cited lines and characters from favorite books to correspond with scenes in her life. Caldwell is at ease discussing a broad spectrum of authors from classics like Shakespeare and Tolstoy to more modern writers, Faulkner and McCarthy. It is clear how important reading is to her life from her first visits to her hometown library "a generous old Georgian mansion with two sets of stone steps up to its wide verandas." Caldwell aptly describes herself as a child "bored beyond measure without a book in my hand."
From girlhood to middle-age, the wind carries us through these spaces in Caldwell's life--a life like so many of our own.
Similar Read-alike suggestions: The Longest Trip Home by John Grogan, All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg, The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer