When an author brings you to the feeling of a character in her book without telling you how the character feels; when an author makes you either love or hate the protagonist without telling you to do so; when nature descriptions live by their own vitality, you know that you are reading a novel written by a gifted writer.
The Middle of Nowhere by Paula Duncan McDonald, born and raised in Wink, Texas, begins west of the Pecos when Apaches had been cleared of the area and free land was being offered for settlement. It was “the middle of nowhere.” But the story quickly evolves from the settler family to the tale of their daughter, Skitchy, the second generation. It becomes her story of life and love, identity and survival, during the desperate years of the Great Depression in West Texas, when severe drought and relentless dust storms wracked the land.
The history of the Pecos, Kermit area, as well as the landscape, are woven into lives filled with authentic details that create a vivid sense of astonishing immediacy. Skitchy’s deeply personal and wrenching story took place then, in that time, but with little effort of focus by the reader, we quickly see it is our time, as well.
The book quickly draws West Texans in with shared knowledge as it begins:
“There are places on earth where life has to work harder to survive, and only the hardy, the most adaptable and resilient, thrive. The northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert west of the Pecos River was such a place.”
It is no wonder that Paula Duncan McDonald can make us feel so intensely as she creates and relates this epic story. She draws her knowledge from being reared on the family’s Wink, Texas, ranch, as well as from solid historical research, as she takes off into “the middle of nowhere.” Today, she is a practicing psychologist in California.