“Buried” by Ruth Chorney
This novel opens with a conversation between protagonist and prisoner, Tera Jones McAllen, serving time for the murder of her husband, and a local journalist, Sue, who feels McAllen has been wrongly accused and commits to writing her story.
“Buried,” one of three Woman Writer finalists for the High Plains Book Awards, is Ruth Chorney's first novel.
In her senior year of high school, Tera and Tom meet and fall in love in a rural northeastern Saskatchewan farming community. Much to the dismay of her best friend who was to be her college roommate, her coach, and her counsellor, Ms. Layton, Tera curtails any hopes they had for her success by getting pregnant.
Layton “sighed. ‘I simply can't bear to think of you buried out there.’
Buried? [Tera thinks]
‘I'll be fine…Lots of women survive being farm wives.”’
Hence, a two-fold meaning in the title.
From this point forward the reader learns of the high price that comes when choosing to survive rather than shine. Early in their 20-year marriage Tom becomes a depressed alcoholic as they raise their two sons on a remote ranch. The story barely touches on Tom’s relationship with his sons. Wouldn't his alcoholism and anger have misshaped their lives on a daily basis?
Tera perceives herself as a strong woman. But she seems (to me) passive, a martyr, worrying frequently over the years if Tom, with whom she is no longer in love, might kill some innocent person, or a family like her own, while driving home after closing the bar yet again. Why not report him? Why is she surprised when the hired help suggests he needs counseling?
This book does pull you in. After you've finished it, reread the first sentences. Within these 150 pages the reader’s assessment of Tera blurs between empathy and bewilderment. Did neither Tera nor Tom feel their lives worthy of alternatives?
Connie Dillion is an artist, owner of Gallery Nine, writer, and member of Zonta Club of Billings.