All Manner of Riches
This rags-to-riches story focuses on Cassie Taylor, whose first thirteen years are spent in a sharecropper’s shack in eastern Oklahoma during the Depression. Living with an alcoholic father and a half brother who is both retarded and sadistic, Cassie’s only happiness comes from the care of a loving grandmother and the opportunity to attend school. What fragile happiness she does enjoy, however, is obliterated in a night of unspeakable violence. Suddenly alone in the world, Cassie endures a dreary adolescence as the ward of her father’s greedy cousins. Escape from their care brings a series of changes for Cassie: In rapid succession, she becomes a legal secretary for James Steele, the wealthy landowner who was the bogeyman of her childhood; marries her employer’s playboy son; and flees the manipulative Steele family and Oklahoma for Dallas, where she becomes a lawyer in her own right.
Mary Elmblad, who grew up in Oklahoma and Texas, draws on her own family history in writing an evocative portrait of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Her portrayal of the poverty of the sharecroppers, the incredible wealth of the oilmen, the position of women in these very traditional societies, and the changes wrought by World War II all contribute to the realistic flavor of her novel. In addition, her appealing, determined heroine and a variety of genuinely despicable villains raise the novel above the run-of-the-mill entries in this genre. ALL MANNER OF RICHES is a satisfying read.