Reviews and Early Praise
Pulitizer Prize Finalist citation
"A novel whose humble prose seems well-suited to the remote American milieu it so engagingly evokes: the Indian allotments of 1920s Oklahoma."
Tom Eblen, Lexington Herald Leader
"Maud's Line is a page-turner whose spare, vivid prose brings characters to life in a time, place and circumstances that few non-Indians know anything about....As big a presence (in the book) as any of the characters is the land itself --- snake-infested Oklahoma Indian country, divided by a checkerboard of 'section line' dirt roads every square mile. Maud and her kin have scratched out a living there for 90 years since the Federal troops force-marched them from Georgia."
Joel Van Valin, Ed., Whistling Shade
"Unlike most historical fiction, famous events and personages are not paraded before us....Instead Verble tells us the story of...What exactly? That's what keeps you guessing. A tale of murder on one page, a turgid romance on another, Maud's Line detours around all genre formulas --even the well-known trope of the "literary Novel."...Like Wessex in Thomas Hardy's, The Return of the Native, the Oklhoma of Maud's Line can be quaintly rustic, but the forlornness of the countryside also has darker undertones that surface in its characters."
Magazine of the National Museum of the American Indian Winter Issue 2015
"[Margaret Verble] gives careful consideration to place, having spent a lot of time on these lands, rivers and streams, and through direct encounters with all the inhabitants of this place - both people and animals, their natures and behaviors. This is all rich source material that informs her writing. Maud's Line is filled with the deeper truths that stem from these stories."
Editor's Choice, Historical Novel Society
Maud Nail, growing up on the Cherokee allotment lands in the 1920s, shares a tiny shack and a hard life with her father, Mustard, and her brother, Lovely. A straight-up delight, she shines like a free spirit: “At eighteen, she was fit, dark, and tall like the rest of her mother’s family and most of her tribe. She was more of a willow than an oak, and her figure and personality had grown pleasing to every male within a twenty mile radius, to some of the women, too, and to most of the animals.” She loves Dickens; she craves a wringer washing machine. But she seems doomed to the same grim, desperate life as her mother, dead of snake bite. Then she meets a white peddler, just passing through, and she sees a way to escape.
Underlying all this is a strenuous and unsentimental examination of the tensions between Maud’s traditions and the white society, a clash of values that shapes her life as surely as her endless chores and the hard country she lives in. In clean, spare prose, Margaret Verble describes a people’s struggle to maintain a culture and an identity that both sustains and imprisons them. Her observations of the beauty and anguish of this life, and her vivid heroine, make this as good a novel as I’ve read all year.
Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia
Maud's Line is filled with evocative glimpses of violence, viscera, yearning and the brusque but communal caring of family. In her unadorned writing style, below the violence and hardship on the surface of Maud's life, Verble crafts a story filled with nuance and quiet conflict. She exhibits a talent for characterization: each individual is carefully and distinctly fashioned, so that Lovely's girlfriend and the members of Maud's extended family, for example, shine brightly in even the briefest of appearances. Maud herself is finely wrought, caught between the values she's been raised with--and the people she loves--and a hope for a different life, one with electricity and hygiene in place of dust and blood. One of the greatest strengths of Verble's novel, set on her own family's land allotment, is the delicate interior conflicts produced by Maud's deceptively simple life. Propelled by its own momentum, Maud's Line pulls the reader along until, amid daily privations and small tragedies, Maud has the chance for the first time to choose for herself what her future will hold.
"First novelist Verble, herself an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, does a beautiful job of limning a sometimes hardscrabble Indian life that nevertheless has the comfort that familiarity and extended family bring. Place is especially important to the author’s story, and its setting is beautifully realized, as are the characters who populate this gentle novel...Pair this one with novels by Louise Erdrich."
"Maud is refreshingly open and honest about her own sexuality through conscious of her place as a woman in a sexist society, always careful not to insult the intelligence or manhood of her male friends and relations. Verble writes in a simple style that matches the hardscrabble setting and plainspoken characters. Verble, herself a member of the Cherokee Nation, tells a compelling story peopled with flawed yet sympathetic characters, sharing insights into Cherokee society on the parcels of land alloted to them after the Trail of Tears."
“Margaret Verble gives us a gorgeous window onto the Cherokee world in Oklahoma, 1928. Verble’s voice is utterly authentic, tender and funny, vivid and smart, and she creates a living community – the Nail family, Maud herself, her father, Mustard, and brother, Lovely, and the brothers Blue and Early, the quiet, tender-mouthed mare Leaf, and the big landscape of the bottoms – the land that was given to the Cherokees after the Trail of Tears. Beyond the allotments, it opens up into the wild, which is more or less what Verble does with this narrative. It’s a wonderful debut novel.”
Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta
"I want to live with Maud in a little farm in a little valley under the shadow of a mountain wall. Maud's Line is an absolutely wonderful novel and Margaret Verble can drop you from great heights and still easily pick you up. I will read anything she writes, with enthusiasm.”—Jim Harrison, author of Dalva, Legends of the Fall, and most recently The Big Seven.
"Writing as though Daniel Woodrell nods over one shoulder and the spirit of Willa Cather over the other, Margaret Verble gives us Maud, a gun-toting, book-loving,dream-chasing young woman whose often agonizing dilemmas can only be countered by sheer strength of heart." Malcolm Brooks, author of Painted Horses.