Author C.H. Armstrong writes a compelling deep dive into Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl years in the early twentieth century. In The Edge of Nowhere, her main character is Victoria Hastings. And, my goodness, she does not lead an easy life.

The book is a letter from Victoria to her grandchildren. As it begins, she says, “At my core I am a survivor, and for that I have no regrets. I neither need, nor desire, forgiveness; and I sure as hell don’t want pity.” This is the capsule of her personality. Starting from a very young age, life is nothing but adversity for Victoria. She hardens herself to the world because not doing so would break her.

So, although there are some surprisingly sweet moments, this is an unhappy story about a strong woman. Just when you think something good happens for Victoria, it all goes south. But this is how life was (and is) for many women. Particularly during the Depression and in areas like Oklahoma where nature conspired against settlers. Armstrong isn’t afraid to get real, and I can appreciate that.

My conclusions

Armstrong is an Oklahoma native, and it shows. This book may not be about a happy life, but it’s a love letter to the grit and gumption of Oklahoma’s people. She truly tells the unvarnished truth, and some of her plot comes from her own family’s lives.

Armstrong’s writing is engaging. She inhabits Victoria and her straightforward nature, using spare prose and accented dialogue. The plot of this fight of a life is mostly well-paced. My only complaint is that the ending was decidedly abrupt. Even though I know the end was near, its clunkiness was jarring.

Still, if you want to explore the realities of Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl years, give this a go. It’s historical fiction at its most heartbreaking.

Pair with Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild or Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Both offer perspectives on other Southern states and time periods.


Many thanks to NetGalley, Central Avenue Publishing, and the author for a digital ARC in exchange for this honest review.