Allison's Book Bag

Coyote Winds by Helen Sedwick

Posted on: May 18, 2013

There are days when I tire of being a reviewer, but then along comes a book like Coyote Winds by Helen Sedwick that makes me feel excited about my role. Coyote Winds  is a bittersweet story, full of sadness and hope. As a historical novel, it’s about Myles and his family who struggle against overwhelming odds to maintain a farm during the depression and the Dust Bowl. As a young adult novel, it’s about thirteen-year-old Andy who lives in our modern times but misses his Grandpa Myles and is determined to keep his grandfather’s memories alive.

It’s been a long time since I have read a book about the love between a boy and a wild animal. Books such as Rascal come to mind. Being about a teenage boy and a coyote he rescues from a dust storm, Coyote Winds is also such a book. Their relationship is not without angst. When Myles brings Ro home, his father warns him that a coyote can’t be trusted. Moreover, their neighbor threatens to kill Ro, because of how certain he is that Ro will destroy livestock. This prediction seems true one day when the family arrives home to find Ro chasing their hog. But then the family realizes Ro is trying to keep Spark Plug from escaping her pen. Over the years, the relationship between Myles and Ro is tested, in ways that will make you mad and happy and sad. Isn’t that how the best relationships are?

A Dust Bowl storm approaches Stratford, Texas ...

A Dust Bowl storm approaches Stratford, Texas in 1935. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you look at the back pages of Coyote Winds, under the Suggestions for Further Reading, you’ll find references to books about coyotes and other multiple other topics. You see, Coyote Winds is also about the Dust Bowl, homesteading and life on the American Western Prairie, the Great Depression, and even Volga German settlers. Whew! That’s a mouthful. With all these elements squeezed into a novel of just over two-hundred pages, you might expect Coyote Winds to read like a dry textbook. In contrast, while reading it, I found myself thinking of other novels which cover the same time era such as A Lantern in her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich and Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. The first especially carries the same poignancy of a family facing changes and hardship but also in love with the land that they own and are trying to master. Some of the most heartbreaking scenes in Coyote Winds occur when one by one, even the most arrogant families are forced to admit that the land will forever be their master. Not that this means they give up and leave, for some do endure, but these pivotal moments still tore me up.

The last topic I’ll address is how Sedwick makes use of the literary “story within a story” device. Anyone who follows my reviews knows that this isn’t one of my favorite techniques. To be honest, until the second half of the Coyote Winds, I’d intended to fault Sedwick for it. Coyote Winds is inspired by her fond memories of her father. Thus, it probably felt more natural for her to write as a young person looking back than one firmly entrenched in our modern world. For a while then, I wish she had just written about the teen in the past. Especially given that the affection she feels for her father and his memories comes across so strong that Sedwick seems at times to have fallen into the trap of promoting the “good old days”. However, because the story of Myles is so compelling I kept reading and eventually decided that both stories were needed. Only through both stories can we realize how cruel but beautiful nature is. And only through both stories can we understand the message of believing in dreams, no matter what the pain and cost.

When a book can make me feel as many emotions as Coyote Winds, I feel safe in declaring it an excellent read. What a beautiful tribute Sedwick has written for her father and what a wonderful story she has given to the literary world. I hope she has future historical tales to share.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

4 Responses to "Coyote Winds by Helen Sedwick"

I really liked the book! Although I found it very sad that Ro died!

I found the latter sad too and even stopped reading the book for a time. 😦

Thanks, Allison, for bringing Coyote Winds with you on your visit home so that I could read it. I enjoyed both the 1930-32 stories of Myles and Ro and the 2003 story of Andy and appreciated the depictions of homesteading in the Prairies and of the Great Depression. I also liked your review of the book.

You’re welcome! I’m glad you liked Coyote Winds and my review of it. Please lend it next to Robert to read. And maybe after that I’ll suggest it to Andy too!

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