Windfalls by Jean Hegland

This novel written by a local Sonoma County author, Jean Hegland, is an incredible read.  It took me into the lives of two women, their children, their troubles and their personal journey.  As I read, I came to know these two women, care about them and eagerly await my quiet time with them each evening.  Last night, I finished the book and set it down with the sadness of losing a close friend.

A piece of work is art to me when it surpasses its medium and provides me with a quality of emotion or a uniqueness of thought I didn’t have before.  Windfalls was both of these for me.  I lived the life and felt the emotions of Anna and Cherise.  At one point early in the story, there was a scene so vivid and devastating that I had to avoid the novel for several days to recover my perspective.  Of course, I know these things happen, but I’m normally able to keep them at a distance.  Not so with Hegland’s work.  She writes up close and personal and her heart shines through from the words on each page.  And even during terrible events, she moves her characters forward through their heroine’s journey like she’s holding a baby bird and teaching it to fly.

In a limited sense, the story is about motherhood.  And it is written about women but not necessarily just for women.  Her birthing scenes brought me back into the delivery room where I witnessed the births of my last three children.  So in the larger sense, the story is about human parenting.

The artistry of a novel also lives in the crafting of its words, and it is Hegland’s choice of words, her similes, her descriptions that kept me intrigued and stirred my emotions as though I were reading poetry.  But it goes further, because the right gathering of words can have a rhythm, a magic balance between the sounds so that they sing and for me, this novel was a song.

Finally, both Anna and Cherise are protagonists in the story, and I realized as I put the book down for the last time, that I knew more about Anna because of the kind of person she was.  Yet Cherise was the more unusual and more interesting character, and in a subtle way, she was the predominate protagonist because of who she wasn’t.


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