Brody returns to Robina County, OK in this tale of happiness hard-won over the course of a quarter century. It's 1927 when Cleo, 15, runs away from home and lands a trumpet-playing gig at a Tulsa speakeasy. Though raised on a farm, she has learned some street smarts through library books, particularly Alexandra David-Neel's My Journey to Lhasa. This educated Huck Finn considers Tulsa only a way station en route to Tibet, in fact, but romance halts her in her tracks as she marries at 18 and bears two children before tragedy sends her back to her birthplace. There, although Lhasa still haunts her, Cleo finds solace in recording her grandmother's life story and in tending a cash crop of strawberries. This fast-moving saga has predictably picaresque elements. Cleo receives numerous second chances at the independence she once grasped so effortlessly, and while success comes later than expected, it does arrive. Meanwhile, if any character vanishes, he or she is likely to reappear years later, as do a lascivious preacher and Cleo's first beau.
When Brody hands Cleo the happy ending that's in the offing from page one, readers may be pleased, but they won't be surprised.