Wood, Jane Roberts 1929–
Wood, Jane Roberts 1929–
PERSONAL: Born 1929, in Dallas, TX; married Dub Wood. Education: Texas Tech, B.A.; Texas Christian University, M.A.; attended various graduate programs abroad and in the U.S.
ADDRESSES: Home—Dallas, TX.
CAREER: Writer and educator. Mountain View College, professor of English; Brookhaven College, professor of English.
MEMBER: PEN, Texas Institute of Letters.
AWARDS, HONORS: Texas Institute of Letters Award for best short story, 1988; A.C. Greene Award, 2006; National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship; National Endowment for the Arts fellow.
"LUCY RICHARDS" TRILOGY
The Train to Estelline, Ellen C. Temple (Austin, TX), 1987.
A Place Called Sweet Shrub, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1990.
Dance a Little Longer, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1993.
Out of Dallas: Fourteen Stories, University of North Texas Press (Denton, TX), 1989.
Grace (novel), Thorndike Press (Thorndike, ME), 2001.
Mocha: The Real Doctor, illustrated by Mary Haverfield, Bright Sky Press (Albany, TX), 2003.
Roseborough (novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 2003.
ADAPTATIONS: Wood has sold the film rights to some of her works to Walt Disney Pictures.
SIDELIGHTS: Jane Roberts Wood is a novelist whose books are all set in her native Texas. Her best-selling trilogy, tracing the life of heroine Lucy Richards, consists of The Train to Estelline, A Place Called Sweet Shrub, and Dance a Little Longer. Lucy's journey begins in 1911, when the young woman takes the train to Estelline, Texas. She is about to embark on a teaching career on the prairie, while encountering numerous obstacles such as prejudice and poverty. The book is written in an epistolary form, composed of letters that Lucy writes home to tell her family about her new life. Reviewer Ann Putnam, writing in Western American Literature, described the book as "predictable," but also said that it is a "great choice" as young adult fiction.
Lucy's adventures continue in A Place Called Sweet Shrub, which takes her through marriage, childbirth, and the Great Depression. This second novel focuses a bit more on the racial tension of the period. Reviewer Denise Perry Donavin in Booklist stated that the issues "add complexity to the plot." The trilogy is complete with Dance a Little Longer. Lucy, her husband Josh Arnold, and her son have moved across the state from east to west Texas. There, Josh is to be the principal of a local school. Their new community turns out to be less than welcoming and the family struggles to fit in, dealing with drought and tragedy along the way. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the story "simple and sweet." Robin S. Holab-Abelman, writing in Kliatt, said that the book is "well written and quickly captivates the reader."
Wood's fourth novel, Grace, is set during World War II and focuses on four families living in Cold Spring, Texas. Grace Gillian is a quirky high school English teacher, trying to help kids deal with the everyday traumas of their young lives. The very real drama of the war is also present. At the same time, her personal life is spinning out of control and she must work toward confronting issues from her past. Several subplots help create a piece of writing which "illuminates the puzzles of racism, sexism, patriotism and poverty," commented Bonnie Johnson in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly critic described Wood as having "a rare gift for transcending the ordinary" in this period piece.
In her 2003 novel Roseborough, Wood tells the story of a group of students in a single-parenting class who learn compassion for one another and come together to provide mutual support. The class is taught by Anne Hamilton, a college professor who has never been married or had a child of her own. Despite the incongruity, students eagerly sign up for her class. One of them, Mary Lou, is recently widowed, after her cherished Gypsy husband, Gundren, was killed in a freak accident, trampled to death by his horse. Mary Lou must deal with her own grief and loneliness as well as the devastation that Gundren's death has caused her fourteen-year-old daughter, Echo, who runs away from home and communicates with her mother only sporadically by postcard. As the class progresses, the seven students discuss their individual concerns and tragedies and gain precious insight into their situations, but the focus remains on Mary Lou. When teacher Anne Hamilton faces the end of a five-year affair, the strength and wisdom she has gained from her class helps her make a decision. The class gathers to further support Mary Lou when Echo finally returns home with a child of her own. Wood "has a real appreciation for the laidback lifestyle and language of a small town," commented Deborah Donovan in Booklist. Reviewer Penny Watkins, writing on the Curled up with a Good Book Web site, observed that the reader of Wood's novel will be "changed along with everyone else in the story by this beautiful, evocative book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December, 1990, Denise Perry Donavin, review of A Place Called Sweet Shrub, p. 718; April 15, 1999, Bonnie Johnston, review of Grace, p. 1538; May 15, 2003, Deborah Donovan, review of Roseborough, p. 1648.
Journal of American Culture, summer, 1991, Joyce Thompson, "Seeing through the Veil: Concepts of Truth in Two West Texas Novels," pp. 69-74.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1993, review of Dance a Little Longer, p. 1028; March 15, 2001, review of Grace, p. 361.
Kliatt, September, 1988, review of The Train to Estelline, p. 19; September, 1995, Robin S. Holab-Abelman, review of Dance a Little Longer, p. 16; September, 2004, Nola Theiss, review of Roseborough, p. 27.
Library Journal, May 1, 2000, Michael Rogers, reviews of Dance a Little Longer, The Train to Estelline, and A Place Called Sweet Shrub, p. 159.
Publishers Weekly, September 13, 1993, review of Dance a Little Longer, p. 93; November 22, 1999, reviews of Dance a Little Longer, The Train to Estelline, and A Place Called Sweet Shrub; March 19, 2001, review of Grace, p. 75.
Washington Post, December 23, 1990, Marcy Heidish, review of A Place Called Sweet Shrub, p. 10.
Western American Literature, November, 1988, Ann Putnam, review of The Train to Estelline, pp. 248-249.
Bookbrowser, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/bookbrowser/ (November 12, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of Grace.
Curled up with a Good Book, http://www.curledup.com/ (November 12, 2006), Penny Watkins, review of Roseborough.
Jane Roberts Wood Web site, http://www.janerobertswood.com (November 12, 2006).
Southern Scribe, http://www.southernscribe.com/ (November 12, 2006), Pam Kingsbury, review of Roseborough.