Plains Song, for Female Voices is the last novel Morris wrote and arguably one of his best. A fitting capstone to a distinguished literary career, the book received the prestigious American Book Award for Fiction in 1981. In this book, Morris returns to the Nebraska setting he had so painstakingly covered in previous Nebraska novels such as The Home Place, The Works of Love, and Ceremony in Lone Tree. This time, however, he tells his story through the eyes of three women, Cora, Madge, and Sharon Rose Atkins. In doing so, he employs third-person and omniscient narration to evoke a provocative and passionate view of women.
The only child of a widowed father and the matriarchal figure in the novel, Cora marries to please her father and moves west with her husband, Emerson. However, the thought of having sexual intercourse so terrifies Cora that she bites her knuckle to the bone during the first and last time she has sex with him. Their passionless relationship produces only a single child, Madge, who later marries a local Nebraska boy, Ned Kibbie. The other key character in the novel is Sharon Rose, the daughter of Emerson’s brother, Orion, and Belle Rooney, the bride he transports from the Missouri Ozarks to Nebraska. After Belle’s untimely death, Madge and Sharon grow up like sisters, even though they have markedly different temperaments. Madge embraces her domestic life and finds satisfaction in her role as wife and...
(The entire section is 498 words.)